Archbishop Coakley on latest development in Hobby Lobby case: “The court was right to grant relief”

OKLAHOMA CITY (June 28, 2013) – The United States 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver yesterday decided that the owners of Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. and Mardel Inc. can proceed with their legal challenge to a federal mandate that violates conscience rights – and not be subject to fines for noncompliance in the meantime.

The Green family, which owns and operates the Oklahoma City-based arts and crafts chain, contends that the Department of Health and Human Services “contraception mandate” violates their constitutional right to freely exercise religion.

The mandate requires secular employers to provide employees with health insurance that covers contraceptives and abortifacients. As Christians, the Greens are morally opposed to abortion.

The 10th Circuit Court’s decision means the case will return to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, which earlier ruled against the Greens’ request for a religious exemption from the mandate.

The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City filed an amicus brief in the case in which the legal representatives of the Catholic Church in central and western Oklahoma argued with the Greens that religiously-motivated secular employers should not be subject to the mandate.

The Most Reverend Paul S. Coakley, Archbishop of Oklahoma City, said he applauds the 10th Circuit Court in unanimously finding that Hobby Lobby and Mardel are entitled to bring claims under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

“The court is right to allow Hobby Lobby to persist in its case against the contraception mandate and to grant the Green family temporary relief from federal fines as the case continues,” the archbishop said. “Under the U.S. Constitution, individuals have a right to allow religion to inform not just their private beliefs, but also their public actions, including the way they engage in business and commerce.

“The Greens evidently care about their employees and their employees’ welfare. To require the Greens to pay fines of up to $1.3 million a day while they seek relief from the HHS mandate would unnecessarily jeopardize the jobs – and, yes, health – of those employees.

“By staying those fines, the 10th Circuit judges have demonstrated their understanding of the good faith of the Green family and of the seriousness of this case against the contraception mandate.

“Now, it will be up to the judge of the Western District Court of Oklahoma to demonstrate his own understanding of the stakes and to judge rightly that the right to religious liberty outweighs the nonexistent need for increased access to contraception.

Government-mandated, employer-provided insurance that covers abortifacients is in no way essential to human flourishing – but religious liberty is.”


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