WASHINGTON — Hobby Lobby Stores and the evangelical Christian family that owns it has filed suit in federal court against the Department of Health and Human Services’ mandate that it provide certain drugs that can cause abortions to its employees free of charge.
The suit filed Sept. 12 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma asks for an emergency injunction against enforcement of the HHS mandate, saying that it would violate the religious beliefs on which the company was founded and has operated since 1970.
Based in Oklahoma City, Hobby Lobby has more than 500 retail stores in 41 states. Its practices include remaining closed on Sundays and hiring company chaplains to minister to employees.
“We have always operated our company in a manner consistent with biblical principles, including integrity and service to others,” said David Green, an evangelical Christian who is founder and CEO of Hobby Lobby. “We simply cannot abandon our religious beliefs to comply with this mandate.”
Hobby Lobby is the largest company to file suit against the HHS mandate and the only one not owned by a Catholic. In all, 28 lawsuits involving 88 plaintiffs are working their way through the federal court system.
Green noted in a conference call announcing the lawsuit that his family had no objections, religious or otherwise, to contraceptives that do not induce abortion and that the company has been covering those for its 22,500 employees through its health insurance and would continue to do so.
But he said the “morning-after” and “week-after” pills, marketed as Plan B One-Step, Next Choice or ella, “go against our faith, and our family is now being forced to choose between following the laws of the land that we love or maintaining the religious beliefs that have made our business successful and have supported our family and thousands of our employees and their families.”
Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing Hobby Lobby in the lawsuit, said the nationwide litigation “is a fight for religious freedom for all Americans,” not just an issue for Catholics.
Duncan said the Green family had been reluctant to file suit. “No one wants to go to court. No one wants to sue their own government,” he said. “We have respect for government. So it is with a heavy heart that anyone has to go to court to sue their own government.”
But, he said, Hobby Lobby was compelled to ask the federal court “to protect their right to run their business as they always have, in conformity with their faith.”
Duncan said Hobby Lobby could be subject to a fine of $1.3 million a day if it fails to provide the abortion-inducing drugs to employees who request them after Jan. 1, the beginning of the next plan year for its health insurance.