WASHINGTON — More than 64,000 people throughout the U.S. signed up to support Hobby Lobby on Jan. 5 for risking millions of dollars in profit to follow its Christian principles.
A Facebook page dedicated to supporting the arts-and-crafts retailer called on “all Americans who value freedom of religion and oppose the HHS mandate's unfair impositions” to support the company on Jan. 5 by shopping at either their local Hobby Lobby store or online.
The national retailer could face fines of $1.3 million per day for following its owners’ religious beliefs, which conflict with a federal mandate requiring employers to offer health-insurance plans covering contraception — including some drugs that can cause early abortions — and sterilization.
The Christian family that owns Hobby Lobby holds moral objections to facilitating any type of abortion, including those caused by “morning after” and “week after” pills.
Although the mandate includes a narrow exemption for a small percentage of religious organizations, no conscience protection has been extended to non-religious companies such as Hobby Lobby that are owned by Christian individuals wishing to put their faith into practice.
More than 100 plaintiffs — including Hobby Lobby and its owners — have sued over the mandate, arguing that it violates the constitution’s guarantees of religious freedom.
The company was recently denied an injunction to temporarily block the mandate by both a district and appellate court, as well as by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who has jurisdiction over emergency requests from the circuit where the lawsuit originated.
Having exhausted its legal recourse for an injunction, the company may proceed to argue its case in court but is not protected from the possibility of massive fines while the lawsuit is pending.
Kyle Duncan, a Becket Fund for Religious Liberty attorney representing Hobby Lobby in court, said the company will continue providing employee health insurance without paying for the abortion-inducing drugs.
Founded in an Oklahoma garage by evangelical Christian David Green, Hobby Lobby has expanded to include 500 stores in 40-plus states. However, despite this growth, it has remained a family business since its conception in 1972.
The Greens have previously explained that their Christian faith influences every aspect of their life, including their business decisions.
Hobby Lobby stores are closed on Sundays — sacrificing millions of dollars in profit — in order to allow employees to rest and worship with their families.
Motivated by Christian principles, the company also donates significant amounts to charities around the world, provides minimum-wage levels that are considerably above the federal requirement and takes out full-page newspaper ads on Christmas and Easter.
When the lawsuit was first announced, Green stated that his family “simply cannot abandon our religious beliefs to comply with this mandate.”
Individuals who signed up to support the company showed enthusiasm about protecting religious liberty.
One participant encouraged Americans to be “proactive in the fight to retain religious freedom.”
“I don't need anything from Hobby Lobby, but I'll be there, and I'll be purchasing something,” said another.
Gov. Huckabee’s Support
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee threw his support behind the grassroots event, promoting it on his Facebook page and website.
“Hobby Lobby is a respected and very successful business that is privately owned by a family who have sought to honor God in their personal lives and in their business,” he wrote on Facebook on Jan. 3.
“Their generosity to missions, to the relief of poverty around the world, to Christian education and to their employees is legendary and exemplifies the kind of business principle that should be applauded and appreciated,” Huckabee said. “Instead, they are having to fight in court for the most basic American rights of freedom of religion and freedom of speech.”
The former governor encouraged Americans to show their support for Hobby Lobby and its owners, warning that “we will either stand together or fall together.”