A federal judge says Hobby Lobby and a sister company will not be subject to daily fines for refusing certain birth-control for workers.
U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton on Friday set a hearing for July 19 on claims by Hobby Lobby and the Mardel Christian bookstore chain that they should not have to provide some types of birth control, as required under the federal health care overhaul.
The companies faced fines totaling $1.3 million daily beginning Monday. But Heaton ordered the federal government to not impose a penalty.
“Hobby Lobby and the Green family faced the terrible choice of violating their faith or paying massive fines starting this Monday morning,” said Kyle Duncan, General Counsel with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, who represents Hobby Lobby. “We are delighted that both the 10th Circuit and the district court have spared them from this unjust burden on their religious freedom.”
An appeals court said Thursday the companies could fight the new law on religious grounds but Heaton first had to reconsider an injunction request. Heaton said Hobby Lobby showed it would suffer consequences and that an injunction was in the public interest.
Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. had argued businesses — not just religious groups — should be allowed to seek an exception if the law violates their religious beliefs.
More than 30 businesses in several states have challenged the contraception mandate. Hobby Lobby's case is the first to be decided by a federal appeals court.