Hobby Lobby has opposed the Heath and Human Services (HHS) mandate requiring them to provide contraception and abortion services to their employees since the mandate was written. Because of this opposition, they have faced fines of $1.3 million a day that were supposed to begin on January 1st of this year. Needless to say, they have fought the fines in court. (previous articles on this case can be found at rightwinggranny.com and rightwinggranny.com).
Hobby Lobby has opposed the mandate on religious grounds. CNS News posted an article on Friday detailing recent events in the court battle between Hobby Lobby and the HHS.
A press release from the Becket Fund (the law firm that is handling the case) states:
Today, for the first time, a federal court has ordered the government not to enforce the HHS abortion-drug mandate against Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. The ruling comes just one day after a dramatic 168-page opinion from the en banc 10th Circuit recognizing that business owners have religious liberty rights. This was the first definitive federal appellate ruling against the HHS mandate.
“Hobby Lobby and the Green family faced the terrible choice of violating their faith or paying massive fines starting this Monday morning,” said Kyle Duncan, General Counsel with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, who represents Hobby Lobby. “We are delighted that both the 10th Circuit and the district court have spared them from this unjust burden on their religious freedom.”
In its landmark opinion yesterday, the 10th Circuit majority found that “no one” – not even the government – “disputes the sincerity of Hobby Lobby’s religious beliefs.” The court ruled that denying them the protection of federal law just because they are a profit-making business “would conflict with the Supreme Court’s free exercise precedent.”
Today, following the 10th Circuit ruling, the trial court granted Hobby Lobby a temporary restraining order against the HHS mandate. Further proceedings are scheduled for July 19, 2013, in Oklahoma City.
So what is this case really about? Do religious people have the right to practice their religion outside of the walls of their church or synagogue? If you are in business, is it legal for your religion to impact the way you do business? Does the Salvation Army have the right to only hire those people who share their beliefs? Do Catholic adoption agencies have the right to adopt children to families that will raise the children with Christian values?
The bottom line here is simple. Does the First Amendment allow you to practice your religious beliefs in your everyday life?
I find this discussion somewhat ironic. A website called Religion and the Federal Government reminds us:
It is no exaggeration to say that on Sundays in Washington during the administrations of Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) and of James Madison (1809-1817) the state became the church. Within a year of his inauguration, Jefferson began attending church services in the House of Representatives. Madison followed Jefferson’s example, although unlike Jefferson, who rode on horseback to church in the Capitol, Madison came in a coach and four. Worship services in the House–a practice that continued until after the Civil War–were acceptable to Jefferson because they were nondiscriminatory and voluntary. Preachers of every Protestant denomination appeared. (Catholic priests began officiating in 1826.) As early as January 1806 a female evangelist, Dorothy Ripley, delivered a camp meeting-style exhortation in the House to Jefferson, Vice President Aaron Burr, and a “crowded audience.” Throughout his administration Jefferson permitted church services in executive branch buildings. The Gospel was also preached in the Supreme Court chambers.
Jefferson’s actions may seem surprising because his attitude toward the relation between religion and government is usually thought to have been embodied in his recommendation that there exist “a wall of separation between church and state.” In that statement, Jefferson was apparently declaring his opposition, as Madison had done in introducing the Bill of Rights, to a “national” religion. In attending church services on public property, Jefferson and Madison consciously and deliberately were offering symbolic support to religion as a prop for republican government.
The website also contains a picture of Thomas Jefferson’s letter discussing the “wall of separation between church and state.” Reading that letter in context makes it obvious that Jefferson was opposing the establishment of a national religion–not the practice of religion by the American people.
If the free exercise of religion was good enough for the founders of America, it should be good enough for their descendants!