Mandate challenge left up to lower courts

Friday, December 28, 2012
Charlie Butts (

Though the Supreme Court has declined to intervene, Hobby Lobby will continue its fight against the Health and Human Services mandate that it provide free insurance coverage for abortion-causing drugs.


Hobby Lobby Stores and sister company Mardel Inc. object to the mandate on religious grounds, but Justice Sonia Sotomayor said in her ruling this week that the nation's high court did not want to become involved at this time (see earlier story). She did, however, tell the companies they may continue to challenge the regulations in lower courts. The mandate takes effect next week.

"We understand the decision," responds Kyle Duncan of The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. "We're disappointed by it, because by not getting involved right now, that leaves Hobby Lobby exposed to the possibility of large fines during the legal process. That's unfair, and we wanted the court to put a temporary halt to that."

U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton ruled against the companies last month, saying that while churches and other religious organizations have been granted constitutional protection from the mandate, "Hobby Lobby and Mardel are not religious organizations."

For refusing to comply with the mandate, Hobby Lobby could be fined up to $1.3 million dollars per day.

"Hobby Lobby is prepared to pay fines if the government chooses to enforce them. Hobby Lobby will continue to offer its employees the health insurance they've always offered. Hobby Lobby, however, will not agree to pay for and provide abortion-inducing drugs in its health insurance plan," Duncan reports. 

The case now goes back to the Tenth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for a hearing, and Duncan hopes a decision will be reached this coming spring.

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