Jan 2, 2013

When Hobby Lobby decided it was opposed to providing birth control

As of today, the arts and crafts store Hobby Lobby, Inc., owes the federal government as much as $2.6 million. Tomorrow that may well be up to $3.9, and the day after tomorrow $5.2.

The company has committed to not paying these fines, claiming that they are being levied because the company refuses to compromise its religious beliefs about the evil of "abortion-causing" birth control.

As The Daily Oklahoman reports, the,
Oklahoma City-based Hobby Lobby will defy a federal law that requires employee health care plans to provide insurance coverage for types of contraception that the firm's owners consider to be “abortion-causing drugs and devices,” an attorney for the company said Thursday.

With Wednesday's rejection of an emergency stay of that federal health care law by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Hobby Lobby and sister company Mardel could be subject to fines of up to $1.3 million a day beginning Tuesday.

'They're not going to comply with the mandate,' said Kyle Duncan, general counsel of The Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing the company. 'They're not going to offer coverage for abortion-inducing drugs in the insurance plan.'
This stand will likely mean the corporation is hailed as modern day martyrs by some Christian conservatives. They might receive the same show of support that the fast food restaurant Chik-fil-A got when the the company's Chief Operating Officer made statements opposing same-sex marriage. This action -- refusing to provide employee health insurance that includes coverage of certain sorts of birth control, and refusing to pay the fine for breaking the law -- will be understood and interpreted as a stand for the robustness of religious liberty.

It turns out, though, that the verb tense of the lawyer's defiant claim,  "They're not going to offer coverage for abortion-inducing drugs in the insurance plan," is pretty important. They're not "going to," in the future.

But they did, in the past.

Legally, the question in the lawsuit Hobby Lobby has filed against the Department of Health and Human Services is more esoteric. The question is whether or not for-profit corporations have religions and exercise religion in the way that's talked about in the First Amendment.

That question isn't particularly relevant to the bulk of those concerned about this case, but that is the question before the courts. Publicly, among those most closely following these developments, the case is understood as actually being about religious liberty in American and the Obama administration's alleged attempts to limit the meaning of "religious exercise" to mere matters of belief and acts of worship, so that anything else that's done as the practice or outworking of piety, such as running a business, can only be strictly secular. For these folks, Hobby Lobby's mounting, unpaid fines are testament to its bold defense of robust religious liberty.

As one opinion-writer depicts this match-up, this is nothing less than a "war against [the] principled sector of the national economy," where,
The federal government is imposing a $1.3 million daily fine to destroy the Green family’s business or otherwise coerce them into violating their sincerely held religious convictions about the life of the unborn.
One problem with that: the company only very recently stopped providing insurance coverage of the supposedly objectionable forms of birth control to its employees.

This strong, strong stance seems to date, actually, only from the time the company learned it would soon be required by law to provide the sort of health insurance that they were already providing.

Hobby Lobby is currently facing mounting millions of dollars of fines for refusing to do what it previously did voluntarily.

For the lawsuit the corporation filed:
Recently, after learning about the nationally prominent HHS mandate controversy, Hobby Lobby re-examined its insurance policy to ensure they continued to be consistent with its faith. During that re-examination, Hobby Lobby discovered that the formulary for its prescription drug policy included two drugs -- Plan B and Ella -- that could cause an abortion. Coverage of these drugs was not included knowingly or deliberately by the Green family [members of which own the company via a trust]. Such coverage is out of step with the rest of Hobby Lobby's policies, which explicitly exclude abortion-causing contraceptive devices and pregnancy-termination drugs. Hobby Lobby therefore immediately excluded the inconsistent drugs from its policies. 
In other words, the company only took a stand -- a supposedly religious stand -- after this issue became a political issue.

The religious commitment of the people who own and run Hobby Lobby isn't in dispute. Either in the court case or anywhere else. Nor is there any question about whether or not they have made decisions that were bad for the bottom line because of those religious commitments. It's quite curious though, and I'd even say suspect, that this issue became an issue, a tenet, purportedly, of that religion the owners are committed to, after the political brouhaha over Obamacare.

While the lawyers and the plaintiffs are claiming the prohibition against certain forms of birth control are long-standing tenets of the corporation's faith -- in addition to the claim that a for-profit corporation can have and practice a faith -- the evidence the lawyers have offered suggests it's rather a new-found doctrine.