Last Thursday, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and remanded a decision of the Western District of Oklahoma entered last year in response to Hobby Lobby’s request for an injunction against the HHS Mandate. (For background into the District Court’s decision, click here for Part One and here for Part Two.) The request for emergency relief made it all the way to the Supreme Court, where Justice Sotomayor declined to grant any emergency relief measures.
The Green family, owners of Hobby Lobby and Mardel, believe that Christian principles should dictate business decisions. When they found out that the HHS Mandate would require them to provide certain abortion-inducing drugs as part of their health care benefits to their employees, they brought a lawsuit asking for an injunction. While certain religious exceptions are given under the Mandate, Hobby Lobby and Mardel fell outside any religious exception.
The majority in the recent Tenth Circuit decision held “that the district court erred in concluding Hobby Lobby and Mardel had not demonstrated a likelihood of success on their [Religious Freedom Restoration Act] claim.” The Court went out to state:
No one disputes in this case the sincerity of Hobby Lobby and Mardel’s religious beliefs. And because the contraceptive-coverage requirement places substantial pressure on Hobby Lobby and Mardel to violate their sincere religious beliefs, their exercise of religion is substantially burdened within the meaning of RFRA.
Additionally, the majority held “that Hobby Lobby and Mardel satisfy the irreparable harm prong of the preliminary injunction standard,” a standard that the District Court did not believe was met. According to the Court:
Hobby Lobby and Mardel remain subject to the Hobson’s choice between catastrophic fines or violating its religious beliefs. Accordingly, the balance of equities tips in Hobby Lobby and Mardel’s favor.
The District Court will be left to decide “the remaining two preliminary injunction factors and then assess whether to grant or deny the plaintiffs’ motion.” The deadline for Hobby Lobby to comply with the drugs required under the HHS Mandate was July 1, 2013.
Founder and CEO of Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. David Green is encouraged by this decision of the Tenth Circuit:
We are encouraged by today’s decision from the 10th Circuit…. My family and I believe very strongly in our conviction that life begins at conception, and the emergency contraceptives that we would be forced to provide in our employee health plan under this mandate are contrary to that conviction. We believe that business owners should not have to be forced to choose between following their faith and following the law. We will continue to fight for our religious freedom, and we appreciate the prayers of support we have received.