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Jindal Warns of ‘Silent War’ on Religion in Reagan Library Speech.

Image: Jindal Warns of 'Silent War' on Religion in Reagan Library Speech

Thursday, 13 Feb 2014 08:29 PM

By Greg Richter

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal blasted the “silent war” that he said is undermining the nation’s basic principles in a major speech Thursday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

Contrary to what liberals say, the Constitution was set up specifically for believers, Jindal, a Catholic who converted from Hinduism, said.

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“The American people, whether they know it or not, are mired in a silent war,” said Jindal, who is widely expected to run for president in 2016.

“It’s a war against the propositions in the Declaration of Independence: It is a war against the spirit that motivated abolitionism: It is a war against the faith that motivated the Civil Rights struggle: It is a war against the soul of countless acts of charity: It is a war against the conscience that drives social change: It is a war against the heart that binds our neighborhoods together: It is a war against America’s best self, at America’s best moment.

“It is a war — a silent war — against religious liberty.”

“This war is waged in our courts and in the halls of political power. It is pursued with grim and relentless determination by a group of like-minded elites, determined to transform the country from a land sustained by faith into a land where faith is silenced, privatized and circumscribed.”

Jindal, 42, is expected to be among a group of Republicans seeking the presidential nomination in 2016, and many see his speech at the library in Simi Valley, Calif., as part of the groundwork for such a run.

He follows other likely GOP contenders Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey.

Jindal released the text of his speech before delivery. He said there was no better place than the Reagan Library to make his point because Reagan had said “Freedom is not the sole prerogative of a chosen few, but the universal right of all God’s children.”

“When he said this, he was not expressing a strictly personal belief in the nature of man as a created being, as a child of God” said Jindal. “He was reaffirming the most basic contention of the American founding, set forth in the Declaration of Independence, that we are a nation constituted in accordance with the ‘Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God,’ and that we are a people ‘endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights.'”

Jindal reminded his audience that as far back as 1798, President John Adams had written to Massachusetts militiamen telling them, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

But he claimed that the “secular elites” understood that to take over America they must make war on its philosophy.

“This silent war is the real undercurrent driving politically fractious debates in a number of areas of policy,” he said. “But why is this war happening? What does it mean for the country and people of faith? Why does it represent such a fundamental challenge to our American identity and the exceptional history that makes our nation great?”

In answering his own questions, Jindal pointed to the court battle over craft store Hobby Lobby’s contention it should not have to provide the morning-after pill. The Green family that owns the stores believes the pill causes an abortion, and they object to its use on religious grounds.

He said Hobby Lobby’s statement of purpose begins with a Bible verse, and that all of the stores close on Sundays. The company pays well above minimum wage and has increased salaries four years in a row. The family that runs it is committed to giving the majority of its wealth to philanthropy.

“None of this matters to the Obama administration,” he blasted. “The argument they have advanced, successfully thus far, is that a faithful business owner cannot operate under the assumption that they can use their moral principles to guide the way their place of business spends money.

“According to the administration’s legal arguments, the family that owns Hobby Lobby is not protected by the First Amendment’s ‘free exercise’ of religion clause.”

He pointed out the absurdity that Hobby Lobby — which has an offshoot company that sells Bibles — is considered a secular company, but Tyndal House, which prints Bibles, is not.

“Perhaps we should all start printing Bibles, so we can claim protection,” he said.

And he said he defended “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson and his family over Robertson’s controversial statements on homosexuality, not because Jindal is the governor of the state where the Robertsons live, but because “they have every right to speak their minds, however indelicately they may choose to do so.”

Jindal also raised the Hosanna-Tabor case in which the Obama administration argued that a Lutheran academy did not have the right to fire someone over a difference in beliefs. The Supreme Court unanimously threw out the government’s argument.

“So for the time being at least, the government doesn’t get to decide who can preach the gospel. But the important thing to note is that the government wanted to make that decision — that is truly offensive and frightening.”

He also brought up cases where bakers, photographers and others in the wedding industry have been told they must cater to same-sex unions.

“This assault will only spread in the immediate future,” Jindal said, foreseeing a time when believers who refuse to be cowed will be penalized for their views, denied membership in professional groups or even rejected from licenses.

“This is the next stage of the assault,” he said. “And it is only beginning.

Jindal was speaking the day after a legal challenge was filed to get Louisiana’s ban on same-sex marriage overturned.

“Today, an overwhelming majority of those who belong to a religious denomination in America — that’s more than half the country — are members of organizations that affirm the traditional definition of marriage,” he said. “All of those denominations will be targeted in large and small degrees in the coming years,” he predicted.

Jindal ended his speech by referring to President Obama’s speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, in which he said that history shows “that nations that uphold the rights of their people — including the freedom of religion — are ultimately more just and more peaceful and more successful.”

“Well said, Mr. President. I couldn’t agree more,” said Jindal. “The president is very concerned about religious liberty.

“And also… if you like your religion, you can keep your religion.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

DOJ to Supreme Court: Religious Beliefs Aren’t Important:

Barack Obama and Eric Holder
President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder (Courtesy of the ACLJ)

If we wanted your religious beliefs on abortion-pill coverage, we’d give them to you appears to be the latest in an untenable string of arguments from the Obama DOJ over the HHS mandate.

On Friday, the DOJ filed its response to the Supreme Court in the Hobby Lobby case.

Politico has the latest on the DOJ’s arguments:

“In arguments filed late Friday, Justice Department lawyers told the court that an employer’s religious beliefs aren’t a legitimate reason to deny something as important as preventive care to an employee who is entitled to it under the health law.

“ ‘The connection is too indirect as a matter of law to impose a substantial burden’ on employers’ right to practice their religion, the lawyers wrote in their opening argument defending the contraceptive requirement against Hobby Lobby Stores Inc.”

The crux of the Obama administration’s legal argument seems to boil down to two points:

1) Opposing forced coverage of abortion pills isn’t a legitimate religious belief; and 2) our pro-abortion agenda is far more important than your silly religious beliefs anyway.

If that sounds like an argument to turn the religious liberty protections of our Constitution on its head, that’s because it is. The moment the government can tell us what is and is not an important part of our faith and further that what we consider to be a sin is far too attenuated to actually be real sin in God’s eyes is the moment we have lost our religious liberty.

This argument comes days after Obama’s DOJ attempted to convince the court that forcing Catholic nuns to pay for abortion pills in no way violated their faith because all they had to do was sign a form and let someone else violate their faith for them.

The absurdity of these arguments is astounding. There is no stronger principle upon which our nation was founded than religious freedom. If the government can say my religious beliefs don’t count, then what religious liberty can we possibly have?

The Supreme Court is set to consider this exact question later this year. At the ACLJ, we are preparing to file a brief on behalf of thousands of concerned Americans and our clients (each of which we have put a stop to the mandate for as their cases continue). Join the fight by signing on to our amicus brief today.



Matthew Clark is associate counsel for government affairs and media advocacy with the ACLJ. A lifelong citizen of the Commonwealth of Virginia, he lives with his wife and three boys in Northern Virginia. Follow Matthew Clark on Twitter at @_MatthewClark. This article is crossposted on Red State.

Tom Price: GOP Has Solution Ready After Obamacare’s Collapse.

Republicans need to be ready with a positive alternative following the inevitable “collapse” of Obamacare, GOP Rep. Tom Price tells Newsmax.

And support is growing for healthcare legislation that empowers consumers, the five-term congressman from Georgia adds.

“The Affordable Care Act is going to collapse soon and real people are going to be hurt,” Price, a past chairman of the House Study Committee and himself a physician, said. “So we have to be ready with a positive solution. We have one in the Empowering Patients First Act.”

Editor’s Note: New ‘Obamacare Survival Guide’ Reveals Dangers Ahead for Your Healthcare

Following up on an in-depth article he wrote for National Review earlier this month, Price spelled out the details of the legislation in meetings of conservatives on Capitol Hill last week.

Price said that a new analysis by Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office, concluded the act will produce $2.34 trillion in savings over a ten-year period and will reduce premium increases compared to Obamacare.

Emphasizing that the measure, formally H.R. 2300, is not the official Republican alternative to Obamacare, Price nonetheless pointed out that the legislation has so far been co-sponsored by more than 50 of his fellow House Republicans.

Price said the measure contains several of the concepts that Republicans tried to make to Obamacare during the debate leading up to its passage on a party line vote in 2010.

For example, Empowering Patients permits the purchase of insurance across state lines — a practice that is currently illegal and which Democrats successfully kept out of the Affordable Care Act.

As Price noted, “when companies compete across state lines, consumers have more choices for coverage and competition will drive down costs.”

Tort reform was another Republican-crafted concept that was repeatedly struck down during the committee process before House members voted on Obamacare three years ago. Price and other physicians in Congress warned at the time that the growth of a litigious society has resulted in one-in-14 physicians facing at least one malpractice suit a year.

Lawsuit abuse reforms are included in H.R. 2300 and, as Price said, “the need for defensive medicine, which squanders hundreds of billions of dollars every year and is passed on to the patients, is reduced. That means lower medical bills.”

Editor’s Note: ObamaCare Is Here. Are You Prepared?

The Republican measure permits individuals to keep their health insurance policy regardless of whether they move or change their jobs.

While Obamacare increases the number of Americans in government programs such as Medicaid, Empowering Patients in sharp contrast extends deductibility and different forms of tax credits to make private-sector plans more affordable.

“So, under this plan, Americans will have the financial wherewithal to purchase the kind of coverage they need, not what the government forces them to buy,” Price said.

Price also referred to the case before the Supreme Court launched by the Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby, challenging Obamacare’s requirement that private healthcare plans provide contraceptives for employees, even if it is contrary to their religious beliefs.

Under the Empowering Patients Act, “religious liberty is protected and conscientious objection is safeguarded,” said Price.

Support for H.R. 2300 is growing among House Republicans, Price told Newsmax. However, he added, “many Democratic colleagues have expressed strong support for different parts of the bill, but no Democratic House member has yet signed on as a co-sponsor. We hope this will change in the weeks ahead.”

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

High Court Sidesteps Liberty University’s Challenge to Employer Mandate.

U.S. Supreme Court
The U.S. Supreme Court sidestepped an opportunity on Monday to take up Liberty University’s challenge to the entire employer mandate, declining to review the case without comment. (Chris Phan/Flickr/Creative Commons)

The United States Supreme Court sidestepped an opportunity Monday to take up Liberty University’s challenge to the entire employer mandate, declining to review the case without comment.

Denial of review does not result in an opinion on the merits. The court could take up a similar challenge if a federal court of appeals strikes down the entire employer mandate, although no such challenge is currently pending.

Liberty Counsel represents Liberty University and two private individuals in the case of Liberty University v. Lew (formerly Liberty University v. Geithner). This was the first private lawsuit against Obamacare filed on the day President Obama signed it into law on March 23, 2010.

The Liberty University case challenged (1) the entire employer mandate, (2) the forced funding of abortion drugs and devices under the law and as implemented by the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and (3) the forced funding of abortion by individuals under the individual mandate.

The Liberty University case first reached the Supreme Court in 2011, and the issue raised by the case (the Anti-Injunction Act) became the subject of the first day of the three-day oral argument in 2012. In November 2012, the high court ordered the federal court of appeals to rehear the remaining unresolved issues, including the employer mandate.

After the three-judge panel (two of whom were appointed by President Obama) upheld the law, the case again went back to the Supreme Court. Last week, the high court accepted the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga cases, both of which are for-profit corporations challenging only the HHS contraception and abortifacient provision.

“The high court has decided to take up the HHS contraception and abortion drug mandate, but it is not ready yet to tackle the entire employer mandate. That challenge will wait for another day,” says Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel. “The Liberty University case would make strong arguments that the employer mandate could not be upheld as a tax because the penalties are exorbitantly high and punitive.

“Deciding the case would have highlighted the absurdity of the Supreme Court’s convoluted decision upholding the individual mandate as a tax. Apparently the court was not willing right now to venture back into that morass.”

Staver concludes, “We will wait on the court’s ruling next year to decide whether to file a new challenge. It is possible the high court could sidestep the HHS abortion mandate issue by deciding that for-profit corporations do not have free exercise of religion rights. I hope the court will decide the issue and strike down this most egregious trampling of the free exercise of religion.”


Santorum: Religious Practice Does Not End at Church Door.

Image: Santorum: Religious Practice Does Not End at Church Door

By Audrey Hudson

The First Amendment’s guarantee for Americans to exercise religious freedom does not end at the church exit door and abortion foes should not have to pay for “morning after” pills under Obamacare, a leading pro-life advocate said Sunday.

The Supreme Court announced last week it will hear arguments from Conestoga Wood Specialties, which is owned by a Mennonite family, and Hobby Lobby, a Christian arts and craft chain, that they should not be forced to pay for the abortion pills in its insurance coverage.

“The idea that the First Amendment stops after you walk out of a church, that it doesn’t have anything to do with how you live the rest of your life, I don’t know very many people of faith who believe that their religion ends with just worship,” said Republican Rick Santorum, former Pennsylvania senator.

“It ends in how you practice and live that faith. And now what President Obama is saying is ‘No, once you step outside that church door, then I get to impose my values on you. Your religious values don’t matter anymore, it’s my values that I can impose on you,'” Santorum said.

“I don’t’ think that’s what the First Amendment stands for and I don’t think that is what the court will say,” Santorum said.

The former presidential contender made his comments on CNN’s “State of the Union,” which also featured former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean who made his own bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, arguing in defense of the new legal requirements under Obamacare.

“I don’t think the employers get to impose their religious beliefs on their employees, or any other beliefs for that matter,” Dean said.

“This idea that we can all pick and chose what we’re going to do is a tough idea,” Dean said.

In a heated exchange over the precise language of the First Amendment, Dean argued that individuals can exercise the freedom, but cannot force others to conform to their religious beliefs.

“But the government can force you to violate your own religion,” Santorum countered.

The review is the first legal challenge to be considered by the high court since it upheld key elements of Obamacare more than a year ago.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Poll: 59 Percent Oppose Obamacare’s HHS Abortion Mandate.

Plan B
A new poll shows that 59 percent of likely voters oppose the HHS mandate requiring insurance coverage that includes drugs that can destroy a human embryo, such as Plan B, without cost to the patient.

Family Research Council (FRC) and Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) have released the results of a commissioned national survey showing that 59 percent of likely voters “oppose the mandate requiring the coverage of preventive care services for women which includes all FDA approved contraceptives, including drugs that can destroy a human embryo, and sterilization services without a direct cost to the patient.”

The poll, conducted by WPA Opinion Research from Nov. 18-20, sought to determine how likely voters feel about Obamacare overall and their opinion regarding the HHS mandate. WPA noted that “Obamacare has seen its public support drop as the unadvertised consequences of the law have become clear. The mandated coverage of drugs that can destroy a human embryo are just another instance of this.”

Strong majorities of both evangelical Protestants (77 percent) and Catholics (61 percent) oppose the mandate. Majorities of Protestants (55 percent), Catholics (53 percent) and evangelical Protestants (68 percent) disapprove of the Affordable Care Act.

FRC President Tony Perkins made the following comments regarding the survey and the Supreme Court’s decision Tuesday to accept the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood cases and decide the fate of Obamacare’s HHS mandate:

“Americans increasingly oppose this mandate because it puts the jobs, livelihoods and health care of millions of Americans at risk. It forces those who stand up for their conscience to choose between paying crippling fines that could shut down their business or dropping the health care of all their employees. This frankly is an unacceptable non-choice.

“Respecting freedom of conscience is a long-held American tradition, and the government should not impose mandates or laws that force individuals and businesses to violate these beliefs just to hold a job, own a business or have health insurance.

“This is a flawed mandate within a flawed law. The reality is that employers may choose to drop health care coverage for their employees and their families altogether rather than submit to this intrusive federal mandate.

“Americans should not be forced to violate their religious beliefs to purchase health insurance, hold a job or operate a business in their country. Freedom of religion, the American people believe, extends to the freedom to practice your religion in your health care plan, as outlined by the First Amendment of the Constitution and illustrated in these poll results.

“The American people are turning their backs not only on this oppressive health care law but also on the law’s mandate that for the first time in American history requires individuals to violate their moral beliefs and require them to pay for items and services they oppose in their health care plans.

“Although the Supreme Court has agreed to hear these cases, Congress should listen to the American people and act to protect the livelihoods of Americans that are now at risk. Congress must fulfill its constitutional duty to protect employers and individuals who do not want to be punished for standing up for their rights.”

To view the results of the survey, click here.



Hobby Lobby Apologizes for Hanukkah Flap.


Hobby Lobby CEO Steve Green
Hobby Lobby CEO Steve Green

The owner of the Hobby Lobby craft store chain, under fire because his stores do not carry Hanukkah merchandise, apologized for employee comments “that may have offended anyone, especially our Jewish customers and friends.”

Many Jews and others took offense after reading a Sept. 27 blogpost by a Marlboro, N.J., man who wrote that a Hobby Lobby employee told a Jewish woman that “we don’t cater to you people” after she asked if the store carried bar mitzvah cards.

“Our family has a deep respect for the Jewish faith and those who hold its traditions dear,” read a statement issued late Thursday (Oct. 3) by Hobby Lobby president Steve Green.

“We’re proud contributors to Yad Vashem, (Israel’s official Holocaust museum) as well as to other museums and synagogues in Israel and the United States.”

The statement, however, did not answer whether Hobby Lobby would carry Jewish holiday-related items in the future.

“We have previously carried merchandise in our stores related to Jewish holidays. We select the items we sell in our stores based on customer demand,” the statement said. “We are working with our buyers to re-evaluate our holiday items and what we will carry in the future.”

Ken Berwitz, in his “Hopelessly Partisan” blog, wrote that after he heard that the Marlboro Hobby Lobby does not carry items for Jewish holidays, he called the store and was told that Green’s Christian faith precluded the chain from doing so.

When he then called Hobby Lobby headquarters in Oklahoma City, Berwitz said he was told the company was not stocking items for Hanukkah or Passover, but was not given a reason.

Several publications, including Religion News Service, wrote about the controversy, stirring a heated online debate in which reactions ranged from cries of anti-Semitism to cries that Green is being demonized for his Christian faith.

Green, a conservative billionaire, owns more than 550 Hobby Lobby stores nationwide, all of which are closed on Sunday, the Christian Sabbath. He is also known for his lawsuit against President Obama’s health care law, which he said forces him to provide employees with free insurance coverage for some contraceptive services that he objects to on religious grounds.

Green’s statement Thursday reiterated one made by a Hobby Lobby spokesman days before—that the company is investigating the matter. Berwitz said Thursday he hopes Hobby Lobby employees are not going to get in trouble for explaining the lack of Hanukkah items in the store, because he believes they were simply stating company policy.

“They’re investigating this as if someone made an offensive statement about Jews,” said Berwitz. “I didn’t take it that way.”

The problem, he continued, is that a company that sells general merchandise has decided not to carry Jewish-related items, even in locations where there are a significant number of Jews.

In a follow-up blog post, he writes that Hobby Lobby has a right to sell or not sell whatever it wants, but that it should know it’s sending a message to Jews.

“It is telling them ‘You can come into our store, and spend your money here … But we won’t put out a thing that has any Jewish orientation here, even during the specific times of the year when you would be most likely to come looking for them. And if you don’t like it, take a hike.’”

“Why would a Jew feel welcome there?” he said.

Here is Hobby Lobby’s statement in its entirety:

Hobby Lobby President Steve Green has issued the following statement on behalf of the company:

“We sincerely apologize for any employee comments that may have offended anyone, especially our Jewish customers and friends. Comments like these do not reflect the feelings of our family or Hobby Lobby.

Our family has a deep respect for the Jewish faith and those who hold its traditions dear. We’re proud contributors to Yad Vashem, as well as to other museums and synagogues in Israel and the United States.

We are investigating this matter and absolutely do not tolerate discrimination at our company or our stores. We do not have any policies that discriminate; in fact, we have policies that specifically prohibit discrimination.

We have previously carried merchandise in our stores related to Jewish holidays. We select the items we sell in our stores based on customer demand. We are working with our buyers to re-evaluate our holiday items and what we will carry in the future.”


Hobby Lobby Wins a Stay Against Abortion-Pill Mandate.

Hobby Lobby
A federal judge has temporarily exempted Hobby Lobby Stores from a requirement in the 2010 health care law that it offer workers insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs.

A federal judge has temporarily exempted Hobby Lobby Stores from a requirement in the 2010 health care law that it offer workers insurance coverage for birth control, which the retailer said violated its religious beliefs.

The preliminary injunction issued by U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton in Oklahoma City, Okla., where Hobby Lobby is based, covers the arts and crafts chain and its affiliated Mardel Christian bookstore chain.

He put the case on hold until October 1, giving the federal government time to decide whether to appeal.

“There is a substantial public interest in ensuring that no individual or corporation has their legs cut out from under them while these difficult issues are resolved,” Heaton said at a hearing, according to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a nonprofit law firm representing Hobby Lobby.

A U.S. Department of Justice spokesman had no immediate comment. The government has said contraception coverage is needed to promote public health and gender equality.

The Green family, which owns Hobby Lobby, said that providing coverage to workers for the morning-after pill and similar contraceptives violated its Christian beliefs.

It also said it could have under Obamacare faced $1.3 million in daily fines by not providing such coverage. Hobby Lobby has 556 stores in 45 U.S. states.

On June 27, a federal appeals court in Denver let Hobby Lobby challenge the mandate on religious grounds, and said there was a good chance the company would prevail.

It said Hobby Lobby had “drawn a line at providing coverage for drugs or devices they consider to induce abortions, and it is not for us to question whether the line is reasonable.”

The Becket Fund said there are 63 lawsuits challenging the mandate. It called Heaton’s decision a victory for “the religious liberty of all for-profit businesses.”

The case is Hobby Lobby Stores Inc et al v. Sebelius et al, U.S. District Court, Western District of Oklahoma, No. 12-01000.



Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Andrew Hay

© 2013 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Hobby Lobby’s Hearing an ‘Even Greater Milestone’ in Abortion-Pill Challenge.

Hobby Lobby
Hooby Lobby’s attorney will go before a federal judge Friday to ask for a preliminary injunction in the arts-and-crafts chain’s abortion-pill mandate case. (DangApricot / Creative Commons)

Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and legal representative for Hobby Lobby Stores, will go before a federal judge Friday, July 19, to ask for a preliminary injunction in the arts-and-crafts chain’s abortion-pill mandate case.

Last month, a federal appeals court reversed a lower-court ruling that had rejected Hobby Lobby’s request to temporarily stop enforcement of the contraceptive requirement. The Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling sent the case back to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, which had earlier ruled against the chain’s request for an exemption.

“What happens on July 19th, however, will be an even greater milestone in this fight,” Becket Fund Executive Director Kristina Arriaga wrote in an email to supporters. “First, it’s important to note the conclusions that the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals came to. The court ruled that denying Hobby Lobby the protection of federal laws designed to secure religious liberty just because they are a profit-making business ‘would conflict with the Supreme Court’s free exercise precedent.’

“In fact, the court found that the heavy fines of the mandate unconstitutionally pressure Hobby Lobby to violate their religious beliefs. Ultimately, the court concluded that Hobby Lobby has ‘established a likely violation of [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act].'”

Arriaga noted that during Friday’s hearing, Duncan “will be arguing that it is always in the public interest to protect First Amendment freedoms.”

The June 27 decision means Hobby Lobby and sister retailer Mardel Christian and Education may be entitled to an exemption from a requirement in President Barack Obama’s 2010 healthcare overhaul (aka Obamacare) to include free “morning after” and “week after” pill coverage in employee health insurance plans.

Oklahoma City-based Hobby Lobby has more than 500 stores in 41 states. One of the tenets of the chain’s statement of purpose is “Honoring the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with biblical principles.” The Green family, which owns Hobby Lobby, also runs Mardel stores.



Hobby Lobby Gets Obamacare Fee Reprieve While Battling Contraception Mandate.

Hobby Lobby
Hobby Lobby

Arts and crafts chain Hobby Lobby may be exempt from a requirement in U.S. President Barack Obama‘s 2010 healthcare overhaul to provide free contraception coverage in its employee health insurance plans, a federal appeals court ruled.

Thursday’s decision by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver could spare the family-owned company from potentially paying millions of dollars in fines as soon as next week for not complying with the law.

In reversing a lower-court ruling that rejected Hobby Lobby’s request for an exemption, the 10th Circuit drew praise from groups that oppose the coverage mandate, and criticism from groups favoring reproductive rights and church-state separation.

Hobby Lobby operates 525 retail stores across the country and employs more than 13,000 full-time workers.

The Green family, which owns the Oklahoma-based company, has said that providing coverage for the morning-after pill and similar contraceptives, which they regard as tantamount to abortion, violates their Christian beliefs.

In a 165-page decision, a divided 10th Circuit found that Hobby Lobby and its smaller affiliate Mardel, a Christian-oriented bookstore and educational supply company, have a right to religious freedom under federal law.

Five of the nine judges found that the company met at least some of the requirements needed for temporary protection from the mandate while the lawsuit proceeds, and that their religion-based claim is likely to succeed.

“Because the contraceptive-coverage requirement places substantial pressure on Hobby Lobby and Mardel to violate their sincere religious beliefs, their exercise of religion is substantially burdened,” a majority of the judges concluded.

“Hobby Lobby and Mardel have drawn a line at providing coverage for drugs or devices they consider to induce abortions, and it is not for us to question whether the line is reasonable,” they added.

The appeals court sent the case back to the district court in Oklahoma to consider several factors, including whether an exemption would serve the public interest.

A Justice Department spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The government has said contraception coverage is needed to promote public health and gender equality.

Praise and Dissent

Hobby Lobby’s lawyer Kyle Duncan of the Becket Fund, a non-profit law firm in Washington, D.C., applauded the 10th Circuit for the reversal.

“We will …. seek a preliminary injunction in due speed,” Duncan said.

Hobby Lobby has said it would incur $1.3 million in daily fines if it failed to provide contraception coverage by July 1.

Its challenge is one of more than 60 lawsuits raising challenges to the contraception mandate, including more than 30 brought by for-profit businesses, according to the Becket Fund.

Hobby Lobby’s case is the first to be decided by a federal appeals court. In an unusual move, the case was heard by the full 10th Circuit, rather than a three-judge panel.

The Catholic Association, which opposes the contraception mandate, called the decision “the most decisive victory yet against the abortion pill mandate.”

Reproductive rights advocates, and supporters of church-state separation, criticized the ruling.

“A business like Hobby Lobby cannot use religion to discriminate by denying women coverage for contraception,” said Louise Melling, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a court brief supporting the government.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State said in a statement that the decision would open the door for other religion-based objections to the law.

As an example, it suggested that Jehovah’s Witnesses employers might refuse, on moral grounds, to cover surgery that includes blood transfusions.

The case is Hobby Lobby Stores Inc et al v. Sebelius et al, 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 12-6294.



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