Nationwide arts and crafts store Hobby Lobby is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Or, as the case may be, between fundamental rights and the government enforcement of law. A first amendment battle is brewing on the grounds of religious freedom and, as the battle is heating up, neither side looks ready to budge.
The Christian-owned Hobby Lobby has sued for an exemption from the section of Obamacare which requires employers to provide a healthcare plan including emergency contraception such as the morning-after pill. It is their belief that these pills are equal to an abortion, which goes against their deeply held religious convictions, although they will still provide coverage for standard birth control pills.
Hobby Lobby had requested an injunction which would allow them to be exempt from this mandate while the lawsuit was pending. Last month, this was denied, but the company fought on. On Wednesday, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor also denied the request. Hobby Lobby is still pursuing the injunction in lower courts.
Hobby Lobby said in a statement released yesterday that “The company will continue to provide health insurance to all qualified employees. To remain true to their faith, it is not their intention, as a company, to pay for abortion-inducing drugs.” The decision to buck the federal mandate and stay true to their religious beliefs could mean fines of up to $1.3 million dollars a day. With the government deciding whose religious beliefs will be respected and whose will not, businesses are left with difficult decisions between their convictions and possible bankruptcy.
There are those who argue Hobby Lobby simply does not want to shoulder the cost of a healthcare plan which is in compliance with Obamacare. With such heavy fines, this is clearly not a decision based on finances over faith. Taking a stand is a very costly prospect for the arts and crafts store yet they, like others around America, are willing to fight for that in which they believe.
Recently, Belmont Abbey College and Wheaton College (which are Catholic and Christian respectively), fought for a similar exemption on religious grounds as did The Archdiocese of New York. In these cases, it was ruled that they should not be forced to provide coverage which violated their religious beliefs. The difference between these cases and Hobby Lobby is that the latter is not a religious institution, and the others are. However, the rights of the individual are a cornerstone of America’s foundation. There is no compelling reason for that freedom to be limited in this case, and must fiercely be protected.
The First Amendment secures the rights of all Americans to worship freely without government infringement. Yet now, due to this law businesses face heavy fines for standing up for their religious convictions and putting their faith into practice. This raises a lot of questions. How will Congress respond? Will our representatives stand up for the beliefs of their constituents and of the Constitution itself?
The biggest questions may be with regards to what happens next. Will these battles cause a delay in implementation? With Constitutional protection for religious beliefs being thrown out the window, what will the next casualty be?