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Gazette Premium Content Hobby Lobby's battle against Obamacare will be a long one

The Gazette editorial Published: July 5, 2013

Score one - a big one - for Hobby Lobby, and for all those offended by the Obama administration's assault on religious liberties in this country.

Last week the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver said Hobby Lobby had the right to sue over a Health and Human Services mandate included as part of Obamacare that requires companies to provide insurance covering birth control.

The administration had argued that for-profit companies couldn't claim that the mandate violates their constitutionally protected religious freedoms. The Denver court called the argument bogus: "A religious individual may enter the for-profit realm intending to demonstrate to the marketplace that a corporation can succeed financially while adhering to religious values."

Hobby Lobby certainly does that. The founders of the Oklahoma City-based company, the Green family, are Christians who walk the walk. They don't open their stores on Sundays. They actively support Christian ministries. They employ full-time chaplains to minister to Hobby Lobby employees.

Like many Christians, the family was floored by the original mandate announced in January 2012. It required faith-affiliated institutions such as hospitals and charities to offer free contraception and abortifacients as part of their health insurance coverage. One month later the administration "improved" the rule by making insurance companies, not the religious employer, offer contraception free of charge. This was of no help to self-insured companies such as Hobby Lobby.

Of course, organizations that didn't get on board would be fined - Obamacare is loaded with potential fines and penalties. In the case of Hobby Lobby, these fines would have been about $1.3 million per day. The Greens have said they aren't opposed to all forms of birth control, but they do have a problem with emergency contraception such as the morning-after pill. Complying with this law, they said, would force them to violate their religious beliefs. And so they went to federal court in Oklahoma City, where they lost the first round. The 10th Circuit decision gives them new hope.

"We will continue to fight for our religious freedom," founder and CEO David Green said Thursday. The next day he got more good news when a federal judge issued a temporary order to stop the government from collecting its fine, which was to begin Monday.

But the battle is sure to linger. The administration has shown no sign of relenting. On Friday, HHS issued its final compromise on the rules. It involves religiously affiliated hospitals, charities and nonprofits, but not for-profit businesses.

The struggle is sure to continue, too, because Barack Obama is a true believer in the cause of abortion-rights advocates. As a state senator, he opposed a bill designed to prevent partial-birth abortions. The National Abortion Rights Action League gave then-U.S. Sen. Obama a 100 percent score on his abortion-rights voting record. In April, he gave a speech to Planned Parenthood - becoming the first sitting U.S. president to do so in the nearly 100 years Planned Parenthood has been in business.

In his remarks there, Obama said that as long as there's a fight to defend women's reproductive rights, "you've also got a president who will be right there with you, fighting every step of the way." Part of that battle plan includes forcing employers' insurance companies to pay for drugs that can stop a pregnancy.

We're heartened by Hobby Lobby's court victory, and by the knowledge that this good company is in it for the long haul. Others who cherish religious liberties should be as well. - The Oklahoman

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