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Claiming To Be a Religion-Based Corporation, Hobby Lobby Fights Contraception Under Obamacare

By January 2, 2013

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What exactly is a religion-based corporation? Can a for-profit private company claim the religious beliefs of its founder and CEO to avoid certain mandates under the law -- mandates every corporation is expected to follow? Would you need to know what the company did to form an opinion?

Suppose I told you this private corporation wasn't in the business of selling Bibles or items used in worship services, but was in fact a chain of big box arts and crafts stores?

According to Forbes.com, Hobby Lobby began as a picture frame company founded by David Green in 1970 and "now has 524 superstores in 42 states....stock[ing] more than 65,000 items including arts and crafts supplies, fashion fabrics, baskets, silk flowers, party supplies and furniture." It has annual revenues of $3 billion and ranks at #147 among America's largest private companies. If Hobby Lobby has its way, its 22,000 employees (the vast majority of them women) will not have the same kind of basic coverage under the Affordable Care Act that other women working for other corporations will enjoy.

If you've never been in a Hobby Lobby, the actual retail stores are very much up front and in the customer's face with their religious views. They plainly state that they're not open Sundays so employees can be home with their families and worship. Their shelves contain many home decor items that proclaim the glory of God and Jesus Christ. This is probably what makes them very successful in some circles, bit it can be a bit much to take if you're Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, or any of a number of faiths that are based on non-Christian principles.

We accept the fact that there are Christian bookstores. So why not consider Hobby Lobby a Christian craft store? I'm not taking this position -- I'm merely playing devil's advocate in light of a situation that's been brewing since late last year. Hobby Lobby doesn't want to follow the Affordable Care Act provisions that require businesses to provide free contraceptive coverage (including the morning after pill) because they're claiming to be a religion-based corporation.

When I shared my opinion in a heated status update on Facebook that turned into this post, I expressed my dismay at the hubris of CEO Green in believing that his personal beliefs should trump public policy; and I also pointed out that this sort of thing is a two way street. If he wants to deny women (namely his employees) the benefits of the many essential women's health care services covered by Obamacare, I can deny him my hard-earned dollars, and as I mentioned in the post I've spent thousands of dollars on crafts over the years as it's my one true vice.

Recently Hobby Lobby's request for an injunction to block implementation of Obamacare's employee contraception mandate was blocked by Sonia Sotomayor; but as my colleague About.com Guide to US Government Info Robert Longley explains, "When Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor issued her opinion denying Hobby Lobby's request, she was actually acting in her capacity as 'Circuit Justice' for the 10th U.S. judicial district....[and] in no way represents the opinion of the full Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the Obamacare employer contraception mandate."

As Longley noted, "Justice Sotomayor based her ruling on the inability of Hobby Lobby to prove that it would suffer 'irreparable harm' without the injunction, rather than on the constitutionality of the contraception mandate itself. Short of hearing before the entire Supreme Court, Hobby Lobby could continue to seek injunctions from other circuit courts serving areas in which they have stores. Should such a request be decided by a more conservative Supreme Court justice, the result could be very different."

And he's right. This is the same Supreme Court that decided corporations are persons under the Citizens United ruling, and if they can be granted the same free speech rights as individuals, perhaps that may extend to religious freedom as well.

I stopped shopping at Hobby Lobby once I learned about this threat to women's health care. So have many of my friends. Over the weekend at a group gathering, when one woman mentioned she'd gone to Hobby Lobby for picture framing, she was gently but firmly educated by the rest of us.

I can't fault Hobby Lobby's CEO for his beliefs, but I'm not supportive of them when they presume to know what's best for his female employees so I'm going elsewhere these days. What's his loss is Michael's, Jo-Ann's and A.C. Moore's gain.

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January 3, 2013 at 3:46 pm
(1) bill says:

Your not taking a side? You brought other religions into the conversation when he didnt. It will is clear this is a liberal article meant to for a man and his family and what they have built to pay for the murder of children bc of a lazy moraless society.

January 3, 2013 at 10:04 pm
(2) Truth Hurts says:

Actually you’re wrong – Hobby Lobby does and will provide contraceptives. They don’t, however, want to provide the morning after pill. Since you we’re given the responsibility to write this piece, you could at least report the story accurately. And you should know that you have inspired me – I will be heading to Hobby Lobby tomorrow to spend some money.

January 3, 2013 at 11:04 pm
(3) Stephen Heaton says:

You obviously don’t even understand what the issue is here. Hobby Lobby doesn’t want to provide abortion-inducing drugs. Women have the right to get those drugs, sure. We’re talking about the government forcing a company to go against their religious beliefs by providing women with certain drugs.

January 3, 2013 at 11:37 pm
(4) womensissues says:

Truth Hurts and Stephen Heaton, you’re both in error. Here’s CEO Green’s statement on what he will and will not provide: “Being Christians, we don’t pay for drugs that might cause abortions. Which means that we don’t cover emergency contraception, the morning-after pill or the week-after pill. We believe doing so might end a life after the moment of conception, something that is contrary to our most important beliefs.”

The most common forms of oral contraception contain progestin, which not only prevents ovulation but also makes the uterine lining inhospitable to a fertilized egg. Thus oral contraception according to Green ends a life, because it prevents a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterine lining. He is also falsely representing the morning after pill as an abortion pill which it is not — it is a form of contraception because it does exactly what the Pill does. Thus, he doesn’t support the birth control pill which employs estrogen/progestin to prevent ovulation or progestin which irritates the uterine lining and prevents implantation of the fertilized egg. That is not a pro-contraception stance.

Truth Hurts, keep spending your money. I hope you can keep them afloat, because they need your help. Bully for you. But if you’re benefiting from Obamacare as a woman who’s covered by an employer who isn’t so judgmental about women’s health, then you’re more fortunate than Hobby Lobby employees. They’ll need much more support than you can provide as a single customer.

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