Feds seek to block Hobby Lobby's religious freedom claim

The federal government is seeking to block Hobby Lobby from denying its employees access to the morning-after pill under the nation's new health care law. Hobby Lobby's attorneys are claiming this violates a constitutional right to freedom of religion. Associated Press reports:

The arts and crafts supply chain filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Oklahoma City last month, alleging the mandate is unconstitutional and will force the company's owners "to violate their deeply held religious beliefs under threat of heavy fines, penalties and lawsuits." Failure to cover the drugs in Hobby Lobby's health insurance plan could lead to fines of up to $1.3 million a day, according to the company.

The Oklahoma City-based chain requested an injunction to prohibit the law's enforcement. But government attorneys claim Hobby Lobby cannot claim to exercise religion to avoid laws designed to regulate commercial activity.

"Hobby Lobby is a for-profit, secular employer, and a secular entity by definition does not exercise religion," the government said. It says a corporation and its owners are separate entities and Hobby Lobby's owners, the Green family, cannot eliminate the legal separation to impose their religious beliefs on the company and its employees.

See full story here.

Comments (4)

I don't quite follow the government's logic: I work for a company owned by orthodox Jews, and they feel that they must have us not work on the sabbath and on the high holy days. There's even a shabbas goy fund to pay people who have to work on those days.

That said, the company's theory of moral agency and religious exercise is bizarrely intrusive. Does it mean that a Hindu-owned company can insist that all its employees be vegetarians? These attempts of employers to regulate the non-working lives of their employees need to be absolutely quashed.

C. Wingate, I think the difference is that your employers won't let you work for them on Shabbos, but can't dictate that you not turn on the TV or drive for yourself on Shabbos (they wouldn't even want to dictate your actions, but presumably they might with Jewish employees). Your working for them makes you their agent, so there's not a difference in Jewish law between their working on the Sabbath and you as their agent working on the Sabbath (I wonder if the same is true with secular law?). On the other hand, a woman using contraception isn't acting as Hobby Lobby's agent. Neither your employers nor Hobby Lobby get to determine your private behavior.

Sorry, that was me.

Bill Dilworth

Given the Hobby Lobby's logic, what would stop a Jehovah's Witness employer from denying employees insurance coverage for blood transfusions, as they "violate the deeply held religious beliefs" of Jehovah's Witnesses? How would Hobby Lobby and likeminded individuals cotton to that notion if they had to work for a business owner who is a Jehovah's Witness?

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