Resource: Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores


June 30, 2014

The Green family owns and operates Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., a national arts and crafts chain with over 500 stores and over 13,000 employees. The Green family has organized the business around the principles of the Christian faith and has explicitly expressed the desire to run the company according to Biblical precepts, one of which is the belief that the use of contraception is immoral. Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), employment-based group health care plans must provide certain types of preventative care, such as FDA-approved contraceptive methods. While there are exemptions available for religious employers and non-profit religious institutions, there are no exemptions available for for-profit institutions such as Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. On September 12, 2012, the Greens, as representatives of Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., sued Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, and challenged the contraception requirement. The plaintiffs argued that the requirement that the employment-based group health care plan cover contraception violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA). The plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction to prevent the enforcement of tax penalties, which the district court denied and a two-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed. The Supreme Court also denied relief, and the plaintiffs filed for an en banc hearing of the Court of Appeals. The en banc panel of the Court of Appeals reversed and held that corporations were "persons" for the purposes of RFRA and had protected rights under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.