by Kathleen Gilbert –
The Obama administration is set to levy as much as a $1.3 million per day fine against a Christian retail business based on their religious objection to abortifacient drugs, according to a lawsuit filed this week.
Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., with more than 500 arts and crafts stores in 41 states and over 22,500 employees, is reportedly the largest for-profit business yet to file suit over the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate requiring businesses to provide free abortion-causing drugs, such as the “week-after” pill Ella, as non-negotiable “preventive services.”
Lawyers for the private retail chain filed a lawsuit in the US District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, where the company is based.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty says the company, which started in a garage in Oklahoma City in 1972, is now a booming business amid a struggling economy – making the government crackdown even more outrageous.
“Hobby Lobby is one of few companies adding jobs during recession, and the government is penalizing them,” said the lawyers, who filed the complaint on behalf of the business. “If Hobby Lobby does not comply with the HHS Mandate, they will be forced to pay up to 1.3 million dollars per day in fines.”
That success, says founder and CEO David Green, is inextricably connected to its groundings in the Christian faith.
“We have always operated our company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles, including integrity and service to others,” said Green in a statement Thursday. “We believe wholeheartedly that it is by God’s grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has been successful. Therefore, we seek to honor him in all that we do.”
Green noted the company keeps fewer hours than most and, like Christian-founded restaurant chain Chick-Fil-A, is closed on Sundays. Meanwhile, he said Hobby Lobby’s minimum wage is 80 percent above the national average, and its headquarters even offers an in-house clinic where employees with company health insurance can visit for free.
Green and his wife Barbara in 2010 signed a pledge to donate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy: “For me and my family, charity equals ministry, which equals the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
For that reason, he said, a government mandate forcing the company to provide abortifacient drugs is no side issue.
“Our family is now being forced to choose between following the laws of the land that we love,” said Green, “or maintaining the religious beliefs that have made our business successful, and have supported our family and thousands of our employees and their families.”
The ACLU in Oklahoma immediately criticized the suit, saying the Greens’ beliefs against birth control is a form of discrimination against women.
“Dating back almost five decades, court cases have held that secular companies, private companies that aren’t a church, cannot use religion as a means to discriminate,” said Ryan Keisel, the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma. The group’s legal director told LifeSiteNews.com that the group may join the suit in defense of the mandate in the future.
A spokeswoman for the Becket Fund told LifeSiteNews.com that administration officials have yet to respond to the latest case.
There are now 28 separate lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate, according to the Becket Fund, which is also representing Wheaton College, Belmont Abbey College, Colorado Christian University, the Eternal Word Television Network, and Ave Maria University against the rule.
One U.S. Congressman from Oklahoma said he was proud that Hobby Lobby “decided to take a stand against this obvious attack” on religious freedom, and noted that a U.S. District Judge already blocked enforcement of the mandate against a company in Colorado this summer.
“This suit allows Hobby Lobby to take up another legal torch against the usurpation of this right,” said Rep. James Lankford (R-OK) in a statement. “The suppression of First Amendment rights is based in this Administration’s desire to dictate rather than protect our freedoms.”