American Family Association Says Today’s Court Decision Will Protect the Religious Liberties of Christians Engaged in Commerce
Today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., is a victory for Christian business owners, who will now be protected from unconstitutional government mandates forcing them to compromise their religious convictions in their business practices and policies.
The decision invalidates the birth control mandate of the Affordable Care Act, which directs businesses to provide birth control coverage to their employees. Faith-based businesses, religious schools and churches are exempt, but the mandate does not provide allowances for secular businesses that are owned by Christians whose religious beliefs may go against the mandate.
“Hobby Lobby took a bold step for all Christian-owned businesses in America and emerged victorious,” said Tim Wildmon, President of American Family Association (AFA, www.afa.net). “From the start, this case was about whether the government could blatantly ignore the constitutionally-protected right to the free exercise of religion and force people of faith to violate their deeply held religious convictions. The government requirement that businesses provide contraception coverage never had a constitutional leg to stand on, and yet the government continued to claim power it doesn’t have and to target people of faith. Today’s decision confirms what’s been true all along: business owners do not need to check their faith at their company doors.
“We applaud the Supreme Court justices who thoughtfully considered this case and ruled on the side of freedom, as well as the attorneys who spent so much time and displayed so much passion defending religious liberty. Finally, we thank the Green family who so heroically fought for their constitutionally protected rights and the rights of others.”
Hobby Lobby is a large craft store chain owned by the Christians David Green and his family. The Greens, who have no moral objection to providing 16 of the 20 FDA-approved contraceptives required under the HHS mandate and do so at no additional cost to employees under their self-insured health plan, took issue with four of the covered methods that were considered abortion-inducing drugs.
Supporters of the birth control mandate claimed that a corporation did not have the right to sue over First Amendment protections. During oral arguments in March, conservative Justice Samuel Alito defended that right, saying that under that logic, kosher butchers would be powerless against a hypothetical law banning kosher butchery. In those arguments, Justice Steven Kennedy was also critical of the mandate, stating that forcing insurance to cover birth control could lead to insurance being forced to cover abortions.
The story of Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. began in September 2012 when Hobby Lobby filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma over the federal mandate to provide four specific potentially life-terminating drugs and devices. That court denied Hobby Lobby’s request, so in November 2012, the business appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit for emergency relief from the federal mandate. A month later, that court also denied emergency relief.
In February 2013, nine U.S. Senators and two Representatives, along with the Oklahoma Attorney General and 11 other influential groups filed Friend-Of-The-Court Briefs supporting Hobby Lobby’s legal challenge to the federal mandate. By March, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit granted Hobby Lobby a full court hearing of its case. A year ago last June, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit overturned the lower court’s denial of the injunction and ordered the federal government to halt enforcement of the federal mandate against Hobby Lobby. The Appeals Court remanded the case back to the District Court in Oklahoma, which granted a preliminary injunction against the federal mandate in July, meaning, in essence, that Hobby Lobby would not have to comply with the mandate because of the owners’ religious convictions.
Last fall, the U.S. government appealed the ruling and took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Hobby Lobby, even though it was the victor at this point, filed a brief with the Supreme Court, agreeing with the federal government that the highest court in the land should hear its case as it raised important questions about the right to religious freedom. In November 2013, the Supreme Court agreed to take up Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. In March 2014, oral arguments were heard on whether the government has the power to force family business owners to act against their faith based solely on their companies’ form of organization.
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American Family Association (AFA) a non-profit 501(c3) organization was founded in 1977 by Donald E. Wildmon, who was pastoring First United Methodist Church in Southaven, Mississippi, at the time. Since 1977, AFA has been on the frontlines of America’s culture war. The original name of the ministry was National Federation for Decency but was changed to American Family Association in 1988. Today, AFA is one of the largest and most effective pro-family organizations in the country with more than one million online supporters and approximately 180,000 paid subscribers to the AFA Journal, the ministry’s monthly magazine. In addition, AFA owns and operates nearly 200 radio stations across the country under the American Family Radio banner.
Other divisions of AFA include American Family Radio, the AFA Foundation and OneNewsNow.com, an online news provider that is syndicated around the world. AFA maintains activist web sites such as OneMillionMoms.com that rally Christian activists to contact companies asking them to drop their advertising from objectionable TV shows. AFA websites average over 6 million unique visitors and 44 million hits per year. AFA uses all these means to communicate an outspoken, resolute, Christian voice throughout America.