Hobby Lobby garners new support in challenge to HHS mandate

OKLAHOMA CITY – Nine U.S. Senators, two U.S. Representatives, the Oklahoma attorney general and 11 organizations have filed amicus (friend of the court) briefs backing Hobby Lobby’s challenge to the controversial federal mandate that requires businesses to finance abortafacients in health insurance plans. 

The coverage mandate, announced last year by the Obama administration as an enforcement requirement under the Affordable Care Act, was assailed in a legal brief submitted to the Tenth U.S. Circuit Court of appeals in Denver. 

The brief from members of Congress was signed by U.S. Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah, Daniel R. Coats of Indiana, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Mike Crapo of Idaho, Charles Grassley of Iowa, James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Pat Roberts of Kansas, and Richard Shelby of Alabama. Also on the amicus brief filed Feb. 20 were U.S. Reps. Frank Wolf of Virginia and Lamar Smith of Texas. 

The Becket Fund, the Oklahoma City retailer’s counsel in the challenge to “ObamaCare,” celebrated the wave of support in a statement from its headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Kyle Duncan, the fund’s general counsel, said, ““While any brief by sitting members of Congress is significant, this one comes from members who originally supported the federal civil rights law — the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 — which is at the heart of the mandate challenges. The brief leaves no doubt that Congress intended to protect the religious freedom of those like Hobby Lobby and its founder, David Green, against federal attempts to force them to insure abortion-inducing drugs.”

Hobby Lobby is owned by the Green family of Oklahoma City. Members of the Green family are Evangelical Christians who oppose abortion. Last fall, the family sued to prevent enforcement of mandates for “preventive services” – including abortion-causing drugs – in the health care law passed in 2010.
Wednesday, Attorney General Scott Pruitt, in his brief on behalf of the state of Oklahoma, argued, “Operation of the Green Family’s corporations in a manner consistent with the Green Family’s religious faith is no less worthy of respect and protection than is the religious faith practiced by church members through a church also organized as a corporation under Oklahoma General Corporation Act.”

Another brief came from a range of organizations representing physicians, nurses and other health care providers. That brief before the Circuit Court contended, “’[E]mergency contraception’ [such as the “morning after” and “week after” pill] has the potential to terminate the lives of unborn children. Being forced to pay for the termination of a human life is just as objectionable as being forced to participate in the termination of the human life.”

The health care organizations included American Physicians & Surgeons, the Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Christian Medial Association, Catholic Medical Association, National Catholic Bioethics Center, Physicians for Life and the association of Pro-Life Nurses.  

Emeritus Professor Charles Rice of Notre Dame University Law School and Prof. Bradley P. Jacob filed on behalf of the Texas Center for Defense of Life and the National Legal Foundation, contending, “Just as a person who believes killing animals is morally wrong would reasonably think it wrong to give a gift certificate to a steakhouse, so a person who believes abortion is morally wrong could reasonably believe it wrong to provide health insurance that can be used to pay only for those goods and services the policy covers and that specifically covers abortifacients.”

Other briefs have been filed in support of Hobby Lobby’s position, including from a wide range of religious organizations such as the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City.

Another brief was submitted for the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions, Prison Fellowship Ministries, Association of Christian Schools International, National Association of Evangelicals, Ethics & Religious Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance, the C12 Group and Christian Legal Society. 

The latter brief reported, “Former Representative Bart Stupak, D-MI, and several other pro-life Democrats voted for ACA based on their belief that Executive Order 13535 would protect conscience rights as to ACA’s implementation. Former Representative Stupak has stated that the Mandate ‘clearly violates Executive Order 13535.’”

The brief for the local Catholic archdiocese recalled: “Nadine Strossen, then president of the ACLU, testified in support of RFRA, noting that the statute safeguarded ‘such familiar practices as. . . permitting religiously sponsored hospitals to decline to provide abortion or contraception services’ to others.”

You may contact Patrick B. McGuigan at Patrick@capitolbeatok.com and follow us on Twitter: @capitolbeatok.