Hobby Lobby Stores has appealed a federal judge’s decision denying the craft supply chain’s request to not provide employees with insurance that covers morning-after and week-after birth control pills, as mandated by the ObamaCare law.
The Christian-owned company asked for relief in the face of fines they say could reach $1 million a day for not providing the coverage.
The appeal was filed Tuesday in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals after a federal judge in Oklahoma on Monday denied the owners’ request for a temporary injunction against the provisions of the Obama administration's health law.
The chain's appeal states in part that Chief Executive Officer David Green his family in less than six weeks “must either violate their faith by covering abortion-causing drugs or be exposed to severe penalties -- including fines of up to $1.3 million per day, annual penalties of about $26 million and exposure to private suits.”
The Oklahoma City-based company and a sister company, Mardel, sued the government in September, claiming the mandate violates the owners' religious beliefs. The owners contend the morning-after and week-after birth control pills are tantamount to abortion because they can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in a woman's womb. They also object to providing coverage for certain kinds of intrauterine devices.
The decision was made by U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton, in a 28-page ruling.
At a hearing earlier this month, a government lawyer said the drugs do not cause abortions and that the U.S. has a compelling interest in mandating insurance coverage for them.
In his ruling, Heaton said churches and other religious organizations have been granted constitutional protection from the birth-control provisions, but Hobby Lobby and Mardel “are not religious organizations."
"Plaintiffs have not cited, and the court has not found, any case concluding that secular, for-profit corporations such as Hobby Lobby and Mardel have a constitutional right to the free exercise of religion," the ruling also stated.
Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said before the appeal: "Every American, including family business owners like the Greens, should be free to live and do business according to their religious beliefs."
Hobby Lobby is the largest business to file a lawsuit against the mandate.
The company calls itself a "biblically founded business" and is closed on Sundays. Founded in 1972, the company now operates more than 500 stores in 41 states and employs more than 13,000 full-time employees who are eligible for health insurance coverage. The company, which is self-insured, has said it will face a daily $1.3 million fine beginning Jan. 1 if it ignores the law.