Debra J. Saunders
Billionaire David Green's success story could come straight from Silicon Valley. He started his business in a garage in 1970. Through hard work and innovation, he built a business that employs more than 13,000 full-time workers. He determined to treat his employees well, providing health care and setting a higher in-house minimum wage for staff.

Here's where Green departs from the standard Bay Area billionaire success story: He's a devout Christian whose Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. and an affiliated Christian bookstore chain are headquartered in Oklahoma. His family controls the business. He's the CEO; a son is president; a daughter is a vice president; and another son is vice CEO. The Greens have signed a statement of faith and trustee commitment to run the business according to their religious beliefs. In that spirit, Hobby Lobby locations, which often broadcast Christian songs and won't sell shot glasses, are closed on Sundays, a decision that costs the corporation millions every year.

Hobby Lobby is challenging the mandate in President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act that requires large employers to include birth control coverage if they provide health care benefits to their workers. I should emphasize that Hobby Lobby's health plan already includes contraceptive coverage, but it excludes drugs or devices that can prevent the embryo from implanting in the womb. The Obama administration requires un-grandfathered health care plans to provide these methods and exempts employees from having to make copayments for them.

"The Greens believe that human beings deserve protection from the moment of conception," argues a brief filed for the family by The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, "and that providing insurance coverage for items that risk killing an embryo makes them complicit in the practice of abortion."

"These abortion-causing drugs go against our faith," Green said in a 2012 press call, "and our family is now being forced to choose between following the laws of the land that we love or maintaining the religious beliefs that have made our business successful."

The Becket Fund brief lays out the ugly choices the Greens face. The corporation can refuse to comply with the law and pay draconian fines of $100 per day per employee; that amounts to about $475 million per year.

Or the corporation can drop its health plan and pay $26 million in fines levied against large employers that do not cover their workforce. But the Greens don't want to do that; it's bad for business, and the retailers' decision to provide health care was "itself religiously motivated."


Debra J. Saunders


 
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