Just after Christmas, the Supreme Court turned down a request by lawyers for Hobby Lobby for emergency relief from the HHS contraception and abortion-inducing drug mandate. Justice Sonia Sotomayor penned the decision and declared, “[W]hatever the ultimate merits of the applicants’ claims, their entitlement to relief is not ‘indisputably clear.’ …This Court has not previously addressed similar RFRA or free exercise claims brought by closely held for-profit corporations and their controlling shareholders alleging that the mandatory provision of certain employee benefits substantially burdens their exercise of religion.” Justice Sotomayor also noted ongoing action on this subject in lower courts and left the door open for another appeal to the Supreme Court once lower court judgment was final.
Kyle Duncan, General Counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing Hobby Lobby, indicated that lower court appeals will continue, and in the meantime, “To remain true to their faith, it is not their intention, as a company, to pay for abortion-inducing drugs.” Hobby Lobby, a chain of more than 500 arts and crafts stores in 41 states, could face federal fines of $1.3 million per day for its stand.
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President Government Relations
Published January 4, 2013