Hobby Lobby Sues Government Over Healthcare Reforms
As of last week, family-owned craft chain Hobby Lobby has filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration in protest against the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s mandate that requires all company-distributed health insurance plans to cover contraceptive services. Hobby Lobby is the largest business to have filed a lawsuit against the mandate so far—it employs over 13,000 people in its 514 stores across 41 states. Hobby Lobby is also the first non-Catholic religiously affiliated businesses to take legal action against the Obama Administration; 27 additional lawsuits from Catholic-affiliated businesses or institutions have already been filed. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is representing Hobby Lobby in this lawsuit.
In comment from Hobby Lobby’s Founder and CEO David Green:
By being required to make a choice between sacrificing our faith or paying millions of dollars in fines, we essentially must choose which poison pill to swallow – We simply cannot abandon our religious beliefs to comply with this mandate.
Let’s take a moment to consider why a business, especially one as big as Hobby Lobby, should not frame this debate simply from the point of view of its business owners. Imagine you are a recently laid-off single mother, a seventeen-year-old high school student, or a college graduate unable to get a job in your field. You need a job to support yourself, so you do what all your friends and family suggest: explore a job in retail. There are always positions in retail! A Hobby Lobby recently opened up in a plaza near your home, so you go in and fill out an application. Hobby Lobby’s application form looks like every other retail store you’ve applied to, making no mention of its religious affiliation. Unless you visited every page of Hobby Lobby’s corporate website and discovered this tiny revealing sentence: “The foundation of our business has been… honoring the Lord in a manner consistent with Biblical principles,” you probably would not have known that you were applying for a retail job that was directly related to a religion. Hobby Lobby likes your application and calls you in for an interview–which you nail, of course! You start next week, full-time, with medical AND dental benefits!
One month later you schedule an appointment with your gynecologist because your hormonal birth control is making you feel so sick and nauseous, you aren’t able to stand through your shifts at Hobby Lobby. Your doctor suggests an IUD and you agree that this would be a great option for you to try. You meet with the receptionist to schedule your next appointment—but wait. There’s a problem with your insurance. The receptionist informs you that your plan will not cover the kind of contraception that your doctor recommended. Sorry, you’re out of luck! Without insurance, the IUD and procedure will cost close to $1,000, which is about what you make at Hobby Lobby in one month. You simply can’t afford to pay out of pocket. You are not able to get the form of healthcare that you need because the owners of the retail chain that employs you believes that it is immoral.
Those who defend the “religious liberties” of businesses often claim that if a business wants to operate religiously, then they should be free to do so. People have the choice to work at a religiously affiliated business.
So, I went into my local Hobby Lobby to investigate the religious influence on its business. I wanted to see if its religious affiliation was made apparent to someone who might just be dropping by in search of a retail job. A sign on the entrance that listed the store hours stated, “We are closed on Sundays to allow our customers and employees time for family and worship.” Inside, Hobby Lobby looked just like the Michaels or JoAnn Fabrics store down the street—there were slightly more cheaply made “home accent” crosses, and cross-themed craft supplies like stickers and fabrics were highlighted at the ends of aisles. I had been in this Hobby Lobby once before while unaware of its religious affiliation and did not notice the influx of crosses then.
Hobby Lobby’s application for employment makes no disclaimers about the business’s religious affiliation, but it does (by law) include this statement: “We do not discriminate with regard to race, color, religion, gender, pregnancy, national origin, age, disability, or any other basis protected by state or federal law.”
If Hobby Lobby wins its lawsuit and is granted an exemption from the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, will it have to make it clear to current and future employees that it is a Christian business whose beliefs affect the healthcare benefits of its employees?
The argument made by supporters of “religious liberty” completely ignores the power held by businesses and the fallacy of choice. When you need a job to support yourself and your family, you will take whatever you can get. There is no choice for the laid-off single mother. She needs a job as soon as possible, or else she and her child will be homeless. When Hobby Lobby is the first business that offers her employment, is she really going to turn them down because she is a Jewish woman who uses birth control?
The First Amendment might guarantee freedom of religion, but it also guarantees freedom from religion.
What do you think of the Hobby Lobby lawsuit and others of this nature against the Obama administration? Leave us a comment and share your thoughts.
Written by Brenna McCaffrey