|Hobby Lobby, Mardel file healthcare suit|
|Monday, 17 September 2012 11:00 PM EDT|
Citing "religious objection," Hobby Lobby and its sister company, Mardel Christian & Education, have filed a federal lawsuit challenging a mandate in the nation's healthcare overhaul law that requires employers to provide coverage for the "morning-after," abortion-inducing pill and similar drugs.
Filed Sept. 12 in U.S. District Court in Oklahoma City, the suit by the Oklahoma City-based Hobby Lobby chain claims the government mandate is forcing the company’s owners "to violate their deeply held religious beliefs under threat of heavy fines, penalties and lawsuits." Failure to provide the drugs in the company’s health insurance plan could lead to fines of up to $1.3 million a day, the company said.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld "ObamaCare" as constitutional. Formally known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, ObamaCare includes a "preventive services" mandate, which forces businesses to provide the morning-after and "week-after" pills—without co-pay—in their health insurance plans.
"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," David Green, Hobby Lobby CEO and founder, said in a statement. "We simply cannot abandon our religious beliefs to comply with this mandate."
The lawsuit was also filed on behalf of Mardel, another of the Green family's businesses. Green's son, Mart Green, is president of Mardel, and several of his grandchildren also work in the Christian retail chain that operates 35 stores in seven states and has 372 full-time employees. Hobby Lobby is self-insured and will be required to comply with the mandate by Jan. 1, the start of its health insurance plan year.
"We are confident that the court will act quickly," said Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty in Washington, D.C., which represents Hobby Lobby, Associated Press (AP) reported. "This mandate violates the religious liberty of millions of Americans. The government has turned a deaf ear to the rights of business owners."
Duncan said the lawsuit does not challenge rules regarding a variety of other birth-control measures. He added that 27 other lawsuits have been filed nationwide over the mandate, mostly by nonprofit groups.
Founded in 1972, Hobby Lobby operates more than 500 stores in 41 states and employs more than 13,000 full-time employees who are eligible for health insurance coverage.