Saturday, shoppers nationwide were asked to stand up for Hobby Lobby, a chain of over 500 stores that faces debilitating fines under the Affordable Health Care Act for refusing to cover contraception in its insurance plans. Much like last August’s Chick-fil-a Appreciation Day, created by former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee to support its “Godly values” and opposition to same-sex marriage, supporters were asked to head for the cash register in honor of Hobby Lobby Appreciation Day.
As a result of last January’s Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate, Hobby Lobby is required to provide its employees with health insurance plans that include coverage for all FDA-approved contraceptives. David Green, Hobby Lobby’s evangelical owner, claims that this mandate conflicts with his business’ “Christian principles,” and decided to sue on First Amendment grounds. This is one of the more prominent of a recent spate of suits filed in response to the HHS mandate’s supposed breach of religious liberty — which, in turn, are the latest manifestations of a long-time Religious Right tactic of defending regressive or discriminatory behaviors under the guise of religious liberty. Despite losing many such court cases on matters as discrimination against homosexual couples, school prayer, the teaching of creationism, and racial discrimination, the tactic persists.
In 2012, Hobby Lobby lost a series of court cases, most recently their emergency appeal for an injunction to block the new regulations or forestall the fines of up to 1.3 million dollars per day ($100 for each of Hobby Lobby’s 13,000 employees), which was denied on December 26 by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Green — or rather, the right-wing Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents Hobby Lobby — claims that the HHS mandate infringes on his right to free expression of religion. Green argues that the requirement that his company’s insurance policy cover emergency contraceptives (e.g. the morning-after pill) amounts to the government forcing him to personally pay for abortions, something he believes his religion forbids.
Unfortunately for Green, some, including Sotomayor, don’t see it in quite the same light. The 10th Circuit Count of Appeals determined that the possibility that an employee might use insurance money to purchase Plan-B does not present a clear case of direct harm to Hobby Lobby’s owners. Nonetheless, the case with its victim-narrative has attracted sympathy and outrage from many conservative evangelicals, with a post by Southern Baptist Professor Denny Burke, “Does Anyone Care What Happens to Hobby Lobby?” shared over 100,000 times on Facebook.