Hobby Lobby case in federal court

The company's argument that it should be exempt from Obamacare's contraception mandate to be heard by federal appeals court.

By Jeff Brumley

A federal appeals court will hear oral arguments May 23 in Hobby Lobby's claim that the contraception mandate in President Obama’s health-care policies violates its religious freedoms.

A federal judge ruled in November 2012 that the company was not exempt from the provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that requiring employer-provided health care plans cover contraceptive coverage. Lower courts reached the same conclusion.

Hobby Lobby CEO Steve Green, a Southern Baptist, and other members of the Green family filed one of 40 lawsuits arguing that businesses, like exempted religious nonprofits, should be granted exemptions from certain provisions of the act.

hobbyLobby

Critics of the act say it’s wrong to force employers to help finance contraceptive services – including sterilization, the morning-after pill, among other services – when those products and services run counter to their principles of faith.

“They ought to be able – just like a church, just like a charity – to have the right to opt out of a provision that infringes on their religious beliefs,” Kyle Duncan, the Green family  attorney who will argue before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, told The Associated Press.

The U.S. Justice Department will argue the government’s case for keeping the contraception mandate, AP reported.

Americans United for the Separation of Church and State filed a friend-of-the-court brief in March supporting the government’s position. The brief said it is unfair for Hobby Lobby’s owners to impose their own religious views on the company’s employees.

Hobby Lobby operates more than 500 arts-and-crafts stores in 41 states with around 13,200 employees.

“[The] Plaintiffs have every right to refrain from using certain types of contraception and to attempt to persuade others from doing so,” the brief said. “But once they enter the secular market for labor to staff their secular, for-profit corporations, they may not force their religious choices on their employees.”

With additional reporting by Bob Allen