The Edmond Sun

January 28, 2014

Oklahoma attorney general files brief in support of Obamacare challenge

Mark Schlachtenhaufen
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt Tuesday filed a brief in support of Hobby Lobby in its Supreme Court challenge to Obamacare.

Hobby Lobby is challenging a federal mandate requiring employer health insurance to include contraception services for drugs and devices that can prevent embryos from implanting in the womb, making it complicit in a form of abortion.

The company faces an estimated $1.3 million-a-day fine for refusing to comply.

Green has said the fines could force the company to make some difficult business decisions including closing all of its more than 500 stores.

In 1970, David Green began Hobby Lobby in a garage as an extension of a miniature picture frames company. Green has said the family had faith they would succeed if they lived and worked according to God’s word.

On the corporate website, the Green family states they are committed to: “Honoring the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with biblical principles.”

Tithing, the Christian practice of giving a portion of one’s income to honor God, Hobby Lobby donates more than 10 percent of its income each year to charity. Hobby Lobby stores are closed on profitable Sundays, a Christian holy day. Other stated business principles include conducting business with integrity and serving others.

Hobby Lobby, headquartered in Oklahoma City, has more than 550 stores including two locations in Edmond and more than 17,000 employees, according to company statistics. In 2009, it passed for the first time the $2 billion annual revenue mark. In April 2013, Hobby Lobby raised the minimum wage for full-time employees to $14 per hour; the federal wage was $7.25 an hour.

In July, a lower federal court granted Hobby Lobby a preliminary injunction preventing the government from enforcing the contraceptives mandate.

The Green family objects to two potentially life-terminating drugs and two devices required in Affordable Care Act employee health insurance.

In his court filing, Pruitt argued there is no basis in Oklahoma law for concluding that becoming a corporation strips businesses of religious freedoms afforded to all its citizens.

“This regulation conflicts with the most basic elements of freedom provided to all Americans — the right to practice their lawful religion how they choose,” Pruitt said.

Pruitt’s brief asks the court to find the regulation unconstitutional.

“Hobby Lobby and the Green family are grateful for the support of the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office,” Peter Dobelbower, general counsel for Hobby Lobby, said in a statement issued to The Edmond Sun. “We appreciate all those who have shown solidarity with us in this important challenge to protect religious liberty.”

In June 2013, the Tenth Circuit ruled Hobby Lobby’s beliefs were compromised without good reason under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.

“We are encouraged by today’s decision from the Tenth Circuit,” Green said at the time, noting his family’s strong belief that life begins at conception. The family has no moral objection to the use of preventative contraceptives.

In November, the Supreme Court agreed to hear two cases including Hobby Lobby’s. Arguments are scheduled for March 25.

The Green family filed suit in September 2012.

341-2121, ext. 108