PHILADELPHIA—The American Pastors Network (APN, www.americanpastorsnetwork.net) says that today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., upholds and protects Christian business owners and their Constitutional rights. It’s a critical ruling upholding the Rule of Law and will help to protect the security of religious liberties in America, and Hobby Lobby should be commended for its commitment to the fight
“Today’s court decision is an encouraging step forward as it reaffirms the God-given and Constitutionally protected right to religious liberty in America” said Sam Rohrer, President of APN as well as the Pennsylvania Pastors Network (PPN, www.papastors.net). “Two-hundred-and-twenty-five years ago, the signors of the U.S. Constitution envisioned a country where people of faith could practice their religion free of government oppression. Today, the Court has upheld this vision, and we thank Hobby Lobby for standing in the gap in this landmark case and important fight.”
The 5-4 decision finds that Christian owners of closely held corporations do not have to comply with the birth control mandate in the Affordable Care Act and will, therefore, not be forced to provide their employees with birth control coverage that goes against their deeply held religious convictions. Faith-based businesses, religious schools and churches are exempt under the mandate, but the mandate did not consider secular businesses that are owned by Christians whose religious beliefs may go against the mandate.
The decision hits especially close to home for PPN, as today’s decision applies to a similar case involving Conestoga Wood Specialties, a Lancaster County, Pa.-based cabinet maker owned by the pro-life Mennonite Hahn family. Conestoga Wood Specialties has provided its 1,000 employees generous health benefits, including preventive care coverage that goes beyond what the law requires. But because they are pro-life, they exclude coverage for contraception that may act as an abortifacient.
“Our nation’s first Supreme Court Chief Justice, John Jay, once said, ‘Every member of the State ought diligently to read and to study the constitution of his country…. By knowing their rights, they will sooner perceive when they are violated and be the better prepared to defend and assert them,’” Rohrer continued. “Thankfully, many Americans have read and understand our Constitution and the freedoms it protects. We are thankful the Supreme Court today upheld their oath to defend the United States Constitution and the religious liberty guaranteed to all Americans.”
Hobby Lobby is a large craft store chain owned by the Christians David Green and his family. The Greens, who had no moral objection to providing 16 of the 20 FDA-approved contraceptives required under the HHS mandate and do so at no additional cost to employees under their self-insured health plan, took issue with four of the covered methods that were considered abortion-inducing drugs.
The timeline of the Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., case was a nearly two-year effort to protect the religious rights of Christian business owners:
- September 2012: Hobby Lobby files suit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma over the federal mandate to provide four specific potentially life-terminating drugs and devices. The request was denied.
- November 2012: The business appeals to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit for emergency relief from the federal mandate.
- December 2012: That court also denies emergency relief.
- February 2013: Nine U.S. Senators and two Representatives, along with the Oklahoma Attorney General and 11 other influential groups file Friend-Of-The-Court Briefs supporting Hobby Lobby’s legal challenge to the federal mandate.
- March 2013: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit grants Hobby Lobby a full court hearing of its case.
- June 2013: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit overturns the lower court’s denial of the injunction and orders the federal government to halt enforcement of the federal mandate against Hobby Lobby. The Appeals Court remands the case back to the District Court in Oklahoma, which grants a preliminary injunction against the federal mandate in July, meaning, in essence, that Hobby Lobby would not have to comply with the mandate because of the owners’ religious convictions.
- Fall 2013: The U.S. government appeals the ruling and takes the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Hobby Lobby, even though it was the victor at this point, files a brief with the Supreme Court, agreeing with the federal government that the highest court in the land should hear its case as it raises important questions about the right to religious freedom.
- November 2013: The Supreme Court agrees to take up Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.
- March 2014: Oral arguments are heard on whether the government has the power to force family business owners to act against their faith based solely on their companies’ form of organization.