Hobby Lobby files Supreme Court brief asking protection from contraception mandate

The arts and crafts business Hobby Lobby filed a Supreme Court brief Monday asking that its owners be protected from violating their religious beliefs by complying with the ObamaCare contraception mandate.

The mission statement for Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. is an unabashed nod to the founders' faith: "Honoring the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles."

Company president Steve Green, son of founder David Green, said in an interview with Fox News that means a refusal to comply with the Department of Health and Human Services' contraception mandate stemming from the Affordable Care Act.

At the Supreme Court Monday, the Becket Fund for Religious Freedom, which is representing Hobby Lobby, filed a brief asking the Greens be protected from having to violate their religious beliefs or face large fines.

According to the Becket Fund, the brief calls the mandate "one of the most straightforward violations … this Court is likely to see" of a 1993 law preserving the free exercise of faith."

A Supreme Court brief filed by the federal government last month argues that the Greens’ individual religious beliefs cannot be transferred to the business entity it owns and controls. The case will be argued at the Supreme Court on March 25th, with an opinion due from the Justices by the end of June.

Under the mandate, companies that provide health insurance must give employees cost-free access to 20 contraceptives. Green said his family objects to four they believe can trigger abortions.

Hobby Lobby attorneys say the government's own brief concedes that the methods could prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.

Green said the issue boils down to one thing -- religious freedom.

"Do people in America that have a business - are they able to operate that business according to their deeply held religious beliefs?" Green asked.

He said the family discussed the issue and decided to fight.

"I would never have imagined just a few years ago that we would be in a situation (where) we're having to sue our own government, that we love," Green said.

Should the Green family refuse to comply with the HHS contraception mandate, Hobby Lobby would face fines of $1.3 million per day.

Green called the penalty "financially unsustainable." It would be much cheaper for the company to discontinue its health insurance benefits altogether and pay the fine for noncompliance - just $2,000 per employee versus $36,500 per employee for failure to provide access to free contraception.

In a brief filed last month and authored by Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, the federal government argued that the, “[law] does not entitle them to an exemption for the corporations based on their individual religious beliefs."

The administration also contended that the Green family's religious objections will not permit Hobby Lobby to “deny to thousands of employees (many of whom may not share the Greens' religious beliefs) statutorily-guaranteed access to benefits of great important to health and well-being."

Green said his family neither wants to impose its religious beliefs on Hobby Lobby employees nor block them from privately accessing any form of birth control.

"But the government is forcing us to be in the middle of that by saying that we have to offer these products at no cost to our employees, and so we're the ones that are being imposed upon," he said.