Hobby Lobby Wins Appeal in 10th Circuit Court

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Hobby Lobby side store

Today, the Hobby Lobby arts and crafts store chain won a substantial victory before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals – just in the nick of time before substantial penalties would have gone into effect starting July 1, 2013.

I had the chance today to talk with Angela Thompson, an attorney at law representing the U.S. Justice Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Ramona, California.

Angela was the first person to tell us about the decision in the Hobby Lobby case and is a sole practitioner in Sacramento, CA, with a background in environmental and land use policy. She has worked on constitutional issues supporting private property rights of individuals.

Her passion for the free exercise of religion in accordance with the U.S. Constitution led her to work on briefs supporting Hobby Lobby.  She found the case intriguing and important for the exercise of religious freedom.

“We are very happy with how the court ruled,” Thompson said.

If you’ve been following the case, you know that lawyers representing the Hobby Lobby arts and crafts store chain as well as the federal government presented oral arguments before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on May 23,2013, in Denver, Colorado. This appeal was based on denial from a lower court which ruled in favor of the U.S. government.

In the appeal, Hobby Lobby’s lawyers asked the judges to block enforcement of the controversial contraception provision under the 2010 “Obamacare” law that requires employers to pay for coverage of certain drugs as contraceptives, even if they may cause abortions. Today, the 10th Circuit Court overruled the lower District Court.

Had this not happened today, Hobby Lobby would have been forced to pay projected penalties estimated at $1.3 million per day starting on July 1, 2013, the date when the mandate would have taken effect, making penalties enforceable.

“The opinion today is extremely strong in Hobby Lobby’s favor on the issue of substantial burden,” said Thompson.

“The court adopted nearly all of our arguments, which were made by other friends of the court as well, regarding the mandate’s substantially burdensome effect on Hobby Lobby.”

Thompson indicated that there are many cases like Hobby Lobby’s where friend of the court (amicus) briefs are filed. She had a dialogue with the Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty who represented Hobby Lobby as well as the government attorneys representing the Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and the Affordable Care Act who allowed her to submit her brief in the case.

Thompson’s work and that of other attorneys representing non-profit organizations helped to advance the theory of substantial burden and support Hobby Lobby’s case.

So, what does “substantial burden” mean?

Simply stated, the question at hand is whether the law imposes a substantial burden on the free exercise of religion.

Congress enacted the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) when George Bush (Sr.) was President.  This legislation directs that the Government may not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion unless the Government satisfies a demanding series of criteria.  Even if a law does not single out a religion, it must be narrowly interpreted to advance a compelling government interest.

The contraception mandate has been a big issue for some Catholic employers whose beliefs are codified in Catholic literature with an across the board objection to contraception. Some have been successful in early court battles.

Hobby Lobby is the case of a non-Catholic employer. The Green family who owns the Hobby Lobby chain of stores does not oppose all contraceptive methods, just those that have abortion-causing qualities.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio introduced the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2012 to counter Obama mandated coverage of contraception. It would have reinforced and expanded existing law:

“The Obama Administration’s obsession with forcing mandates on the American people has now reached a new low by violating the conscience rights and religious liberties of our people.  Under this President, we have a government that has grown too big, too costly and now even more overbearing by forcing religious entities to abandon their beliefs.  This is a common sense bill that simply says the government can’t force religious organizations to abandon the fundamental tenets of their faith because the government says so,” said U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL)

Read more here.

So, what does this decision mean for the contraception mandate under “Obamacare”?

“Part of the problem with the mandate is it is fraught with exemptions for everything except religion. It’s hard for the government to claim that they have a compelling interest in enforcing the mandate when they’ve made so many exceptions for other reasons but not for religious employers,” said Thompson.

I also asked Thompson if  there were ramifications for other parts of the Affordable Care Act, like the employer mandate which small businesses are trying to repeal.


“It’s called a facial challenge when you seek to invalidate a part of the law, like the employer mandate or the contraception mandate. Hobby Lobby has succeeded today on its as-applied challenge, which just deals with the law’s application to Hobby Lobby specifically.  A facial challenge may become a more viable option if more companies succeed as Hobby Lobby just did,” said Thompson.

The Hobby Lobby decision supporting religious freedom over government mandates might just help in other battles, like the one being waged by the National Federation of Independent Business and help small businesses fight back the employer mandate.

It takes time, but rulings like this give all of us who believe in the cause of freedom hope.

Read the 10th Circuit Court of Appeal’s Decision here.

View the Beckett Fund for Religious Freedom’s Press Release here.

Photo Credit: Flicker Creative Commons



  1. PRAYERS ARE ANSWERED!!! Thank God for His Goodness. HOBBY LOBBY we are soooo happy that you stood up for morals and values Christian people hold dearly. We supported you through this, and will continue to support your efforts by shopping HOBBY LOBBY! Thank you again, from an AMERICAN

  2. Thank you God for answered prayer by many Christians for Hobby Lobby a
    Christian company, who stood up for Christian principles.
    We will continue to pray for other Christian individuals and companies who are
    being persecuted for their Christian beliefs.

  3. This is sad that a company decides the fate of another person solely on their religious beliefs without ever considering the other person’s beliefs. I guess Hobby Lobby thinks the breeding 20 and counting bunch is just great. Sometimes you can push religion way to far and turn people away! But then a person can say all they want until something happens to them….then thoughts often change! Isn’t nice to know there are so many perfect people out there….

    • No, it is not sad. It would be nice if more people stood up for their “religious beliefs” (kind of redundant, don’t you think?). Why do people have so much trouble with someone following and living by their beliefs? I think it is great that the owners of Hobby Lobby are not letting the government (or anyone else) dictate to them how to run their business. It is their business!! Do not like what they are doing? Don’t go to their store!! I already do that with Home Depot and Starbucks, to name just 2.

    • Good morning CH:

      Yes, indeed it is! Personally, I see this to be a highly problematic issue. When people believe inaccurately that our nation was founded upon Christian principle, only then to turn right back around, and not support the very legislation that exemplifies compassion, mercy, and grace to others who do not share the same worldview, especially when it is clear that our founders in no way intended for our nation to be governed by the laws of the bible.

      What these folks argue for is a theocracy, and there is absolutely no constitutional or biblical support for such a notion. One is “free” under our constitution to believe what it is they wish, but it is also not appropriate to enforce that worldview on others. That is, even Thomas Jefferson, the very man conservatives hold near and dear to their heart, argued to the Danbury Baptists, that “a wall shall separate religion and governance.” (paraphrased)

      The sole argument made now, is that those who want this mandate to be applied to all, are infringing on that freedom, but are they? If these people, do not wish to participate (and I speak from an individual micro level here) they are under no obligation to do so. The organizational argument, I believe has a bit more merit, but here is the problem as I foresee it to be:

      Now, since this exception has been made, ANY organization may argue that part of the Affordable Health Care Act infringes upon their “religious belief.” Make no mistake; they will argue otherwise, however, when I served as a pastor, I specifically recall those serving as my colleagues doing this very thing, with regards to social security. That is, at that time, during the eighties, pastors could site their religious belief as a way of getting out of participating in the social security tax. And trust me: there were many!

      What I see specifically taking place now, is as follows: the line of organizations attempting to “use” religious conviction as a matter of escaping this legislation will only open the flood gates. It is as though these folks embracing this ideology have neglected to recall the free will that God (the one they profess belief in) has endowed each and every one of us with. This is precisely why, despite many progressives not agreeing with my spiritual worldview, I argue the merits of such matters on their turf, so to speak, that is, their Book, their Bible, their belief system. And still, despite this, not one single individual can demonstrate that this nation with quotes from the very Book they pay fealty to, where God intends His Book determine laws of this land. Yet, they continue to push, shove, and do whatever it takes to legislate a conscience. It will never work, despite all of their efforts. The church wonders why it is losing members, only to find out that they have abandoned their specific calling, which is to win souls. I hope this assists in the dialogue you apparently are able to see. Thanks!

  4. SMH and laughing at this! If you folks truly believe this will not go before the Supreme Court and be over-turned, you are crazy! And the best part to me? All of those fines which they dodge now, will go back to retroactively being enforced. When will you folks get it? It is THE LAW!!!!

    • When will you get it? This so-called law CANNOT force people to do things which are against their RELIGIOUS belief!! If you can’t understand that, then maybe you need to read the Constitution. In case you are totally oblivious to the Constitution, let me inform you: No “law” that obozo, et al can come up with supercedes the Constitution. Also, no government (at least, so far) can force people to support a “law” that infringes on our rights. Hobby Lobby’s owners are religious and run the business according to their beliefs; therefore, they should not be forced to pay for contraceptives that are abortion pills. Like stated in the article, they have no problem with pills to PREVENT pregnancy, just will not pay for pills that will ABORT a baby. I also do not see where you figure the SCOTUS will over-turn this. I guess we will wait and see.

      • Good evening Aristophanes,

        I will not respond, other than to say this, to anyone who is arguing for the religious merits of some action only to ignore the very Scripture they profess to believe in, when commanded by Paul, in Romans 13 to not only respect those duly elected, but to obey them. Your calling the President “obozo,” is representative of precisely why our Country is failing so miserably.

        Perhaps a re-visit to the very Scriptures you profess to believe in will assist you in this endeavor. Many thanks!

    • YOU are a DOCTOR and you support Obamacare??? I guess stupidity knows NO bounds!!! Now you know why I rarely don’t care for Doctors! You know why the term “practicing medicine” is used? Because you all (generically speaking—there ARE exeptions) are using humans as guinea pigs while you try to figure out what you are doing!!!

      • Good evening Linnnee,

        Yes, I am a doctor, and I do support people receiving the medical care they NEED! That, my friend, is called not stupidity, but compassion! The last I looked, the very book this organization proclaims they hold so dear to their hearts, the Bible, demonstrates how Jesus Himself cared about the sick and the hurting.

        Make no mistake: The Hobby Lobby organization has “used” their belief in Christ, to “dodge” participation in their participation on a specific portion of this legislation; that of having to pay for contraception. So, here is the question: If Hobby Lobby can argue this position, does it not open the flood-gates for other organizations to “use” their so called Christian belief in order to do the same? The answer is obvious: yes!

        However, then an additional question rises which is rooted once again in the very book these people profess as their guide to living: the Bible. That question deals with this notion that somehow contraception is a sin. How many people have used contraception in order to appropriately plan for their respective families? The answer is many, and there is no merit to argue otherwise. In addition, I find it puzzling at best, that the very people who are speaking so in such bellicose tones, over the sole issue of abortion, something I do NOT support, have difficulty providing simple contraception as part of the insurance mandate.

        Finally, a specific question to you: Why the need to denigrate another human being, specifically myself, when you have no knowledge of who I really am? To be clear: I am NOT a medical doctor, but a psychologist and theologian with two earned doctorates. These degrees make me not one lick more intelligent than any other human being, however, it does not follow that people should be denigrating others simply for stating their worldview, only due to it differing with yours. Perhaps, THAT is the problem in our nation; not the various other issues folks such as yourself bring into the fore. Last but not least, lest you have forgotten the individual mandate was NOT a Democratic idea, but was Republican and promoted heavily by the conservative think tank; the Heritage Foundation, the very organization who has sent their marching orders to the current GOP telling them to “investigate versus legislate.” That has turned out really good for the people in this Country now, hasn’t it? Thirteen bills this Congress has drafted since they began their term.

  5. Hobby Lobby does not care about women with PCOS or women that will die if they get pregnant. Hobby Lobby does not care about the religion of these dead women and babies. Hobby Lobby cares about portraying big government as evil, and medicine as harmful. Medicine should be between a doctor and a patient…not mediated by the superstitions of your employer, the beliefs of your cult, or the harumphs of a demagogue.

    • Wow. Someone has a problem with God. Hobby Lobby cares more about these women and BABIES then you do. Where do you get that Hobby Lobby is trying to portray “big government” as evil and medicine as harmful? Yes, big government is evil, I do not want the government involved in every aspect of my life and that is part of obama-don’t-care. Hobby Lobby has no problem with contraceptives that PREVENT pregnancy, just with contraceptives that abort BABIES. Yes, medicine should be between a doctor and a patient — but, your big government is trying to make it between doctor, patient and GOVERNMENT!!
      Also, I totally understand you have a problem with Christians. You need to understand that our RELIGION and our BELIEFS are what we live by, whether you like that or not. I support Hobby Lobby for standing up to tyrants like you want to be and living by their beliefs!!

      • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome requires hormone therapy of the sort that Hobby Lobby Doctors…ooops…I meant retailers…and religious idealogues..pretend kills babies. These women, along with others who require hormone therapies suffer from this same suspicion your demagogues are promoting….which is based on no scripture, no medicine, and no sense. Women are just as worthy of life as non-viable fetuses. Thanks for all the caps, it makes it so clear you are paranoid about the government, as well as secular humanists. We love babies, too. We just also think women are more than useless elevators for your little doll souls you like to pretend you protect. We even love religion and God. Imagine that.

        • Here are some quotes from the article: “… that requires employers to pay for coverage of certain drugs AS CONTRACEPTIVES, even if they may cause abortions.” Also:
          “Hobby Lobby is the case of a non-Catholic employer. The Green family who owns the Hobby Lobby chain of stores does not oppose all contraceptive methods, just those that have abortion-causing qualities.”
          No where do I see that Hobby Lobby wants to deny hormone therapy. You make a comment about “Hobby Lobby doctors”; but, nowhere do I see a comment about “government doctors”. Who gave the government the right to decide what the insurance coverage should be for private businesses? Oh, that’s right, good old Congress passed obama-don’t-care without reading the bloody thing!!
          Thank you for calling me paranoid because I am suspicious of big government. Makes me realize I am on the right track.
          Also, would it make you any more comfortable if Hobby Lobby stated “secular humanism” as their reason for fighting this very wrong mandate?
          I resent your comment about “pretend”. I am very much a right to life as far as babies are concerned. You claim “woman’s choice”, I claim the babies do not get a choice. You are trying to justify this mandate by using medical issues that have nothing to do with a pill that causes abortion, I am claiming this mandate is just another attack by liberals on religion. It is obvious, at least to me, that you view this subject entirely differenly than I do. I will continue to support Hobby Lobby in this fight. I do not expect you to.

          • Hormone therapy = Contraceptives. Same thing. Some people need it or they will die, or get riddled with cysts. Look it up.

          • If you had read the article, you would realize that Hobby Lobby have no problems with contraceptives that PREVENT pregnancy. Also, I am sure that if a “hormone therapy” that caused abortion was needed for cysts, etc. Hobby Lobby would be much more open minded about it then some people are (not dropping any names). Hobby Lobby is fighting the mandate that they must provide abortion causing contrapceptives for people who want the contraceptive for that intent only and I totally agree with them.

          • It’s hard to believe someone can be so ignorant about something so serious. I’m telling you that the same hormones that are used for contraception as are also used to manage some reproductive system issues. It’s not that complicated. There is no “oh, well you won’t be using it for sex,” get-your medicine free card. Hobby Lobby has no business dictating contraception…which is a medical intervention in some cases, because women can DIE from pregnancies if they have certain conditions or are not fortified from deficiencies properly. This is why doctors should be deciding the default positions on this…and not superstitions, or easily duped emotionalists. Hobby Lobby is wrong, these contraceptions prevent implantation as well as fertilization…if we pretend that an abortion occurs when implantation fails…then there would be millions of funerals every year with little cups of menstrual fluid in them…and their microscopic zygote corpses.

          • brotherfire – It seems to me that you have no problem with an entity who has not business involving itself in this issue – the government! If obozo had kept his nose out of this, this would be a non-issue as it has been for many years. The simplest solution would be not to work for Hobby Lobby if you have a problem with their policies; but, that would be too logical for people like you.

          • People need medicine, this has nothing to do with the POTUS being invasive. You keep attacking the man and not the massive project the GOP helped him write…I wonder what that’s called…hmm. Anyway your point about ectopic pregnancies reveals yet another sadly ignorant premise….an ectopic pregnancy is a a fertilized egg….by your account…if these drugs “kill babies,” then an ectopic pregnancy is a baby, and your daughter in law “killed it.” You should simply learn more about pregnancy, I’ll take pity on you and stop insulting you. But I’m sure you can imagine that some people, some women, may not know they’ll need some medicine that Hobby Slotty’s superstitions prevent them from having when they take the job there. That’s why those who are so sublimely in the dark about science, shouldn’t interfere with doctors and patients. Or mothers and their pregnancies. The government is simply doing it’s job in making sure coverage programs are decent…and that means covering hormone therapies that may end pregnancies (before viability it’s not murder) and prevent serious conditions and complications. Ya’ll hate it because you don’t understand it, which you have clearly demonstrated. Check mate.

          • Brotherfire, the prescription for the pill is NOT that costly. You go on about it as if one needs to take out a second mortgage to get it! You also go on about it as if these pregnancies, and cysts, are taking out women by the DROVES! It isn’t that difficult, or any more costly, to get one’s OWN individual insurance (or wasn’t before Obamacare). I one works for Hobby Lobby, and one doesn’t like the insurance plan, one can opt out and get their own. Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out! Or, shop around and find another job. Hobby Lobby isn’t the kind of employment that takes five years of University to qualify for; know what I mean? One does have their agency to make one’s own choice! STOP making it sound like Hobby Lobby is holding a gun to employee’s heads and making them remain there!!!! Egads!!! Talk about holding a gun to someone’s head; that’s JUST EXACTLY what the government was doing to Hobby Lobby!!!

          • And I DID read the article, I expect you to go study ectopic pregnancies as well as polycystic ovarian syndrome. Then come tell me that ectopic pregnancies must result in a dead woman. Because that’s the only logical outcome of this nusto superstitious position you hold.

          • Before you start with your ad hominem attacks (oh, wait, you already have), try re-reading my reply to your previous rant. I will answer your rather stupid comment about ectopic pregnancies – I had a daughter-in-law who had an ectopic pregnancy. The solution was SURGERY, not “hormone therapy”. If the doctor had tried “hormone therapy”, she would be dead!! My “nutso superstitious position” is base on faith coupled with science. Just because you don’t agree with me does not mean you have to resort to personal attacks. Or are my comments wearing down your “arguments”; therefore, you go the route of attacking instead of discussion? Get a grip and try to discuss the issue instead of childish name calling.

          • Balderdash, Brotherfire! Hormone Therapy = Contraceptives??? I am amazed by your ignorance! Talk about being taken in by Propoganda! Do you have any inkling how many women DIE from the pill??? It almost took me out in only 2.5 months of use!!! BLOODCLOT!!! And unless one follows Bio-identical Hormone Therapy (which few insurance companies endorse) there isn’t even a safe Menapausal treatment either! And I have cysts which, BTW, didn’t begin to go away with the pill! PULEEASE!!! Broaden you horizons and don’t just read medical propaganda; try learning about ALTERNATIVE forms of therapy, as well!!!

  6. Way to go Hobby Lobby… Continue to stand up for what you believe in. I don’t understand some of the negative responses. It’s simple…if you don’t like the beliefs and work structure of a Christian company don’t work there.

  7. OK I guess the gov’t can only say do this because I say so if we are going to fight a war and spend trillions of dollars to take a man out of power that roughly twenty years prior we put into power right? So lets have a country filled with people not earning enough to pay for their own healthcare and instead of allowing a person to be responsible and take birth control we say no lets just produce more offspring. I spose I don’t understand the idea of the GOP will fight to the death to make sure children are born but once they are born then they are someone else’s problem and they won’t lift a finger to help poor impoverished children get out of the terrible predicament they are born into. LOVE IT * cough sarcasm**

    • glenn – this is not about birth control. This is about contraceptives that can cause abortion. I do not see liberals helping people born in poverty. I also see liberals fighting for convicted murderers; but, not for unborn babies. Uh??? But, then I would not expect a liberal to see the hypocrisy in that.

  8. Thank You God For answering the prayers of many fellow believers, America lets keep fighting for what is right!!

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