Hobby Lobby, an arts and crafts company arguing that the contraception mandate contained in Obamacare violates the religious liberties of the company owners, has “established a likelihood of success” in making that argument and so does not have to pay fines for refusing to comply with the mandate as the case proceeds, a federal court ruled today.
“We hold that Hobby Lobby and Mardel are entitled to bring claims under [Religious Freedom Restoration Act], have established a likelihood of success that their rights under this statute are substantially burdened by the contraceptive-coverage requirement, and have established an irreparable harm,” the 10th Circuit Court ruled in the opinion released today.
The nature of Hobby Lobby’s victory might come as a surprise even to the company, which had argued that the court should allow the case to proceed based on a lower threshold for the likelihood of success issue.
“But we need not resolve whether this relaxed standard would apply here, given that a majority of the court holds that Hobby Lobby and Mardel have satisfied the likelihood-ofsuccess prong under the traditional standard,” the ruling also states.
The Justice Department wanted the court to dismiss the case on the theory that Hobby Lobby is almost certain to lose. “The preventive services coverage regulations do not substantially burden any “exercise of religion” by for-profit, secular companies and their owners,” DOJ argued last year. “Even if there were a substantial burden on religious exercise, the regulations serve compelling governmental interests and are the least restrictive means to achieve those interests.”
“Today marks a milestone in Hobby Lobby’s fight for religious liberty,” Kyle Duncan of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which argued the case, said in a statement on the ruling. “This is a tremendous victory not only for the Green family and for their business, but also for many other religious business owners who should not have to forfeit their faith to make a living.”
“Today’s ruling was the most decisive victory yet against the abortion-pill mandate,” said The Catholic Association’s Ashley McGuire said in a statement today. “The number of religious freedom victories against the mandate continues to mount, sending the clearest signal possible to the Obama administration that no employer, no matter where he or she works, should be forced to choose between violating his or her conscience and paying a fine. We hope that President Obama and Kathleen Sebelius will heed the court and give people of faith all over this country relief from this unjust mandate.”
The case was heard by all eight of the 10th Circuit’s judges. “[Hobby Lobby ownership] already provides generous benefits to thousands of their employees,” Duncan said yesterday on Fox Business. “The government is saying ‘unless you provide this very small subset of emergency contraception, we’re going to levy potentially huge IRS fines against you.”
The Justice Department argued that the company should have to pay the fines for non-compliance — which could cost over $1 million per day — even while the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the lawsuit proceeds through the courts. The court rejected that argument, as well.