Last month, the Hobby Lobby craft chain sued for the right to deny their employees access to affordable contraceptive services through their insurance plans. The company’s conservative Christian owners claim that the Obamacare provision that requires employer-based insurance plans to provide contraception without a co-pay is a violation of their religious conscience, although several Christian groups protested against the owners’ decision to prioritize their own religious beliefs over the beliefs of the tens of thousands of people that Hobby Lobby employs.
Now, the federal government is weighing in, urging a district judge to deny Hobby Lobby’s request to exempt themselves from the health reform law’s birth control provision. According to the Associated Press, U.S. government attorneys maintain that “Hobby Lobby cannot claim to exercise religion in an effort to avoid laws designed to regulate commercial activity.”
Hobby Lobby was the first commercial business to file a lawsuit against Obamacare, although it is certainly not alone in its legal challenge of the health reform law’s contraception mandate. Over 100 plaintiffs representing right-wing Christians institutions, particularly Catholic- and Protestant-affiliated universities, have filed over 35 lawsuits against Obamacare’s birth control provision, although several have already been dismissed because they cannot provide enough evidence of religious discrimination. In fact, Obamacare already provides an religious accommodation that shifts the cost of birth control onto insurance companies so that religious institutions do not have to pay for contraceptive services that they oppose.
The majority of Americans, including a plurality of Catholics, believe that religiously-affiliated institutions should provide health plans that offer contraceptive coverage at no additional cost to their employees. Although Hobby Lobby’s owners are personally religious, the craft store is not officially affiliated with any organized religion.