Hobby Lobby sues Obama administration over contraception mandate

The craft store chain Hobby Lobby filed suit against the Obama administration on Wednesday over the health care law's requirement that large employers' insurance plans include birth control and emergency contraception for their employees, arguing that the requirement violates the store owner's religious freedom.

More than two dozen nonprofits, many of them religiously affiliated colleges, have sued over the mandate, but only two private businesses, including Hobby Lobby, have chosen to do so so far. The company is owned by David Green, an evangelical Christian, and is based in Oklahoma City, Okla. The chain's 500 stores in 41 states all close on Sundays, and Green donates millions of dollars to ministries around the world, the business' lawyer told reporters Wednesday. "In a profound way, their business is a ministry," said Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund, which is representing many of the plaintiffs against the Obama administration.

Hobby Lobby already covers oral contraceptives in its employees' insurance plan, but Green objects to emergency contraceptives because he says they can prevent a fertilized egg from being implanted, which he considers akin to abortion and thus a violation of his religious beliefs. (Emergency contraceptives are designed to prevent ovaries from producing eggs, but they can also prevent fertilized eggs from implanting. The National Institutes of Health and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists define pregnancy as beginning once the fertilized egg implants in the uterus, not once an egg is fertilized. Once a woman is pregnant, emergency contraception would not terminate the pregnancy.)

The Obama administration gave religiously affiliated nonprofits an extra year to come into compliance with the mandate, but privately owned businesses must alter their insurance plans to include birth control this year. The administration has also proposed alternative ways for these nonprofits to avoid having to personally finance their plans' contraceptives, instead having the insurance companies pay for them. In July, a U.S. judge in Colorado granted a private Colorado company run by a Catholic family a temporary injunction from the rule.

The company filed its suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. Hobby Lobby, which is self-insured, seeks an injunction against the mandate so it doesn't have to alter its employees' insurance plans by the January 1 deadline.