DENVER (CNS) — In a June 27 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver reversed a decision of the lower court in Hobby Lobby’s challenge to a federal contraceptive mandate, saying that the chain of arts-and-crafts store will not have to pay fines while its lawsuit makes its way through the courts.
The appeals court returned the case to the District Court with instructions that it consider whether to grant Hobby Lobby a preliminary injunction.
The court said that the company has “established a likelihood of success that (its) rights … are substantially burdened by the contraceptive-coverage requirement, and established an irreparable harm.”
“But we remand the case to the district court for further proceedings on two of the remaining factors governing the grant or denial of a preliminary injunction,” it said.
In September, Hobby Lobby sued the U.S. government over the requirement that employers cover emergency contraceptives such as the morning-after pill or Plan B, which are considered abortifacients. The family-owned company has no moral objection to the Department of Health and Human Services’ requirement it cover “preventive contraceptives” and will continue to cover those for employees.
Hobby Lobby and other companies that have sued over the mandate cite the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which prohibits the federal government from imposing a “substantial burden” on a person’s exercise of religion unless there is a “compelling governmental interest” and the measure is the least restrictive method of achieving that interest.
“We are encouraged by today’s decision from the 10th Circuit,” David Green, founder and CEO of Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., said in a statement June 27. “My family and I believe very strongly in our conviction that life begins at conception, and the emergency contraceptives that we would be forced to provide in our employee health plan under this mandate are contrary to that conviction.”
Green said he and his family “believe that business owners should not have to be forced to choose between following their faith and following the law.” He vowed to continue “to fight for our religious freedom, and we appreciate the prayers of support we have received.”
Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing Hobby Lobby in its suit, called the appeals ruling “a tremendous victory not only for the Green family and for their business, but also for many other religious business owners who should not have to forfeit their faith to make a living.”
Founded in an Oklahoma City garage in 1972, Hobby Lobby has grown from one 300-square-foot retail space into more than 500 stores in 41 states.
It describes itself as a “biblically founded business.” The stores pipe in Christian music through their sound systems and are closed on Sundays.
The 10th Circuit’s ruling was issued a day before HHS issued its final rules for implementation the contraceptive mandate. HHS reiterated the religious exemption will not include for-profit secular companies whose owners object to the mandate on moral grounds.