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Hobby Lobby Loses, Tyndale Wins Legal Round Against HHS Contraceptives Mandate

Federal court rules that secular, for-profit corporations do not have a right to free exercise of religion.

(Update: Hobby Lobby has appealed to the Tenth Circuit for emergency relief.)

A federal judge denied Hobby Lobby's request for an injunction against the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) contraceptive mandate on Monday, ruling that the arts-and-crafts giant must cover emergency contraceptives in its insurance policies even though it believes the pills cause abortions.

U.S. district judge Joe Heaton rejected both First Amendment and Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) claims by Hobby Lobby and its well-known evangelical owners, the Green family. Heaton ruled that "secular, for-profit corporations do not have free exercise rights."

"The Greens do have such rights," Heaton's ruling stated, "but are unlikely to prevail as to their constitutional claims because the preventive care coverage regulations ... are neutral laws of general applicability which are rationally related to a legitimate governmental objective."

The ruling stands in contrast to a D.C. circuit court's ruling in favor of Tyndale House Publishers just three days earlier. In that case, the court granted Tyndale a preliminary injunction and ruled that the Christian-owned publishing house has legal standing because "the beliefs of a closely-held corporation and its owners are inseparable, the corporation should be deemed the alter-ego of its owners for religious purposes."

According to a press release, Becket Fund general counsel Kyle Duncan says Hobby Lobby will appeal the decision as soon as possible.

CT has previously reported on Hobby Lobby's entry into the fray over the HHS contraceptives mandate, and recently explored the surprising evangelical plaintiffs filing suit against the federal government over the issue.

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