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Judge rejects lawsuit over birth control law

| Monday, Nov. 19, 2012, 8:38 p.m.

OKLAHOMA CITY — A federal judge on Monday rejected a request by Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. to block part of the federal health care law that requires it to provide the morning-after and week-after birth control pills.

In a 28-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton denied a request by Hobby Lobby to prevent the government from enforcing portions of the health care law that will require it to include contraceptives the company considers objectionable in its health insurance plan.

The Oklahoma City-based arts and craft supply company and a sister company, Mardel Inc., sued the government in September claiming that the companies' Christian owners believe use of the morning-after and week-after birth control pills are tantamount to abortion because they prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in a woman's womb. The company's owners object to providing coverage for certain kinds of intrauterine devices.

At a hearing this month, a government lawyer said the drugs do not cause abortions and that the United States has a compelling interest in mandating insurance coverage for them.

In his ruling denying Hobby Lobby's request for an injunction, Heaton noted churches and other religious organizations or religious corporations have been granted constitutional protection from provisions of the law regarding the birth-control measures.

“However, Hobby Lobby and Mardel are not religious organizations,” the ruling states. “Plaintiffs have not cited, and the court has not found, any case concluding that secular, for-profit corporations such as Hobby Lobby and Mardel have a constitutional right to the free exercise of religion.”

Hobby Lobby's attorney said the companies' owners, the Green family, plan to appeal.

“Every American, including family business owners like the Greens, should be free to live and do business according to their religious beliefs,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

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