Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby is suing the government over the Federal Health Care Reform Act for requiring companies to provide insurance coverage for the "morning after pill," saying it violates the company's religious beliefs.
According to an attorney representing the company, Hobby Lobby is the largest and only non-Catholic owned business to file a lawsuit against the mandate. Since Hobby Lobby was founded in 1972, the company's owners say they have based their business on Christian principles.
But now, the company says that faith is being challenged by the federal government.
"We simply cannot abandon our religious beliefs to comply with this mandate," Hobby Lobby founder and CEO David Green said Wednesday.
The lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma alleges the government is forcing the Green family to "violate their deeply-held religious beliefs" by "forcing them to provide health insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs."
"Our family is being forced to choose between following the laws of the land that we love or maintaining the religious beliefs that have made our business successful," Green said.
Those who support the law agree this is an issue of religious freedom, but say it's the religious freedom of employees that is being protected by the government.
"They should have the right to be able to access those services and they shouldn't be discriminated against because of the religious beliefs of their employer," Ryan Keisel, the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, said.
Kiesel argues Hobby Lobby should not be able to exercise its religious beliefs with disregard to rights of its employees.
"Dating back almost five decades, court cases have held that secular companies, private companies that aren't a church cannot use religion as a means to discriminate," Kiesel said.
News 9 did reach out to the Department of Health and Human Services, but our calls and e-mails were not returned.
Rep. James Lankford (R-OK) issued a statement regarding the lawsuit.
"I am proud that a privately-owned Oklahoma company decided to take a stand against this obvious attack on the First Amendment right to practice the religion of your choice," said Representative Lankford. "HHS requires business owners to surrender their values and change to the Administration's values or face a huge federal fine. Federal coercion to require businesses to provide free drugs that render abortions clearly violates the religious beliefs and moral practice of hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans. In July, a District Judge blocked the enforcement of the mandate on a Colorado company, Hercules Industries Inc., now this suit allows Hobby Lobby to take up another legal torch against the usurpation of this right."
The Green family owns Hobby Lobby and Mardel retail stores. Hobby Lobby employs more than 13,000 people in 500 stores throughout the United States. Mardel operates more than 30 stores with more than 300 employees.
"This Administration decided to move beyond regulating private businesses to now telling them how to run their business," continued Lankford. "The suppression of First Amendment rights is based in this Administration's desire to dictate rather than protect our freedoms.
"We have the duty to utilize our court system to ensure the preservation of our constitutional rights. A favorable outcome in this case will remind the Executive Branch that our liberties are codified within the Constitution, not the Department of Health and Human Services or President Obama," concluded Lankford."
In July 2012, U.S. District Judge John Kane temporarily blocked HHS from enforcing the contraception mandate on Hercules Industries Inc., a private manufacturer of HVAC equipment owned by the Catholic Newland family. In Newland v. Sebelius, Judge Kane offered the family a brief, ad hoc stay that the judge stipulated did not necessarily enjoin other parties, hence the need for the Green family's suit.
The White House released the following statement regarding the suit:
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, most health insurance plans will cover women's preventive services, including contraception, without charging a co-pay or deductible beginning in August, 2012. This new law will save money for millions of Americans and ensure Americans nationwide get the high-quality care they need to stay healthy.
Today, President Obama will announce that his Administration will implement a policy that accommodates religious liberty while protecting the health of women. Today, nearly 99 percent of all women have used contraception at some point in their lives, but more than half of all women between the ages of 18-34 struggle to afford it.
Under the new policy to be announced today, women will have free preventive care that includes contraceptive services no matter where she works. The policy also ensures that if a woman works for religious employers with objections to providing contraceptive services as part of its health plan, the religious employer will not be required to provide contraception coverage, but her insurance company will be required to offer contraceptive care free of charge.
The new policy ensures women can get contraception without paying a co-pay and addresses important concerns raised by religious groups by ensuring that objecting religious employers will not have to provide contraceptive coverage or refer women to organizations that provide contraception. Background on this policy is included below:
Covering contraception saves money for insurance companies by keeping women healthy and preventing spending on other health services. For example, there was no increase in premiums when contraception was added to the Federal Employees Health Benefit System and required of non-religious employers in Hawaii. One study found that covering contraception lowered premiums by 10 percent or more.