DENVER (CBS4) — In the most prominent challenge of its kind, Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. asked a federal appeals court Thursday for an exemption from part of the federal health care law that requires it to offer employees health coverage that includes access to the morning-after pill.
The Oklahoma City-based arts-and-crafts chain argued that businesses — not just the currently exempted religious groups — should be allowed to seek exception from that section of the health law if it violates their religious beliefs.
The arguments Thursday centered on the Green family, founders of Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. and a sister company, Christian booksellers Mardel Inc. An eight-judge panel peppered both sides with questions about whether the contraceptives mandate is an undue burden on the Greens’ religious belief.
The Green family acknowledges that Hobby Lobby also makes a profit but believes that fact shouldn’t force them to violate their faith.
“Everyone enjoys religious liberty not only people who exercise their religion in a church or a charity but people like the Green family who exercise their religion in their daily businesses,” said Hobby Lobby attorney Kyle Duncan.
They believe emergency contraception is tantamount to abortion. They said if they choose not to provide it under the new health care law they face substantial fines.
“They’re not trying to control anybody else they just don’t want to be involved. It’s wrong for the government to say ‘We’re going to impose penalties on your business,’” said Duncan.
The Department of Justice argues that an exemption for the employer would come at the expense of employees.
Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains spokeswoman Monica McCafferty said an employer should not have influence over the coverage of birth control.
“I think this could really set a dangerous standard for employers to cherry pick or to determine what type of coverage their employees get based on personal beliefs,” said McCafferty.
Attorney Dan Recht, who is not involved with the cars, said the ruling whatever it is will be groundbreaking.
“This is a very significant case. A monumental case. There’s 50 of these around the country. This issue will definitely end up in front of the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Recht.
It usually takes the court a month or two to make a decision but Hobby Lobby’s attorneys are urging for a ruling as quickly as possible because the company could be fined on July 1 if they don’t comply with the health care law.