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We should be free to preach the gospel, we should be free to help the poor in Christ's name, we should be free to heal the sick in Christ's name, we should be free to educate in Christ's name, and now we are being told for the first time that the government has the right to tell us that our ministries are now public services without religious reference… It's chilling and difficult for me to live with that my own government is now saying that what you thought you could do, namely exercise your religion freely as you define it, now depends upon how we define what you do. This isn't just the bishops, we have Catholic University, Notre Dame University, and many others who are saying "You are robbing of us of our identity as Catholics."
– Francis Cardinal George, Archdiocese of Chicago
The Green family began what became Hobby Lobby Stores, a retail chain of arts and crafts stores, out of a garage in the family's home in Oklahoma. The Hahn family likewise began Conestoga Wood Specialties, a cabinet-making business, out of a garage in the family's home in Pennsylvania.
The Greens are evangelical Christians who strive to operate Hobby Lobby in a manner consistent with biblical principles. Hobby Lobby pays full-time employees at almost double the minimum wage, offers generous health benefits, and allows employees ample time off from work. The Hahns, who are Mennonite, similarly strive to operate Conestoga Wood in a way that honors their faith.
Both the Hahns and the Greens believe that life begins at conception, and their religious beliefs prohibit them from facilitating abortion. Unfortunately, a mandate from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would force the Greens and the Hahns to cover certain drugs and devices that can end life after conception. Coverage of these drugs and devices is required in the companies' health plans under threat of potentially fatal fines by the federal government.
The Greens and the Hahns were forced to sue the federal government to vindicate their rights under the U.S. Constitution and federal law to exercise religion. They argued that Americans do not give up their freedom when they open family businesses.
The U.S. Supreme Court decided on June 30 that closely held businesses like Hobby Lobby and Conestoga can exercise religion under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a law that passed Congress nearly unanimously and was enthusiastically signed into law by Pres. Bill Clinton in 1993. The Court also found that the HHS Mandate constitutes an unjustified, substantial burden because of the millions of dollars in annual fines that both companies would face if they did not comply with it.
The US. bishops have voiced their strong support for families like the Greens and the Hahns. The bishops have filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting Hobby Lobby and Conestoga in their challenge to the HHS Mandate. The bishops explained that they oppose "any rule that would require faithful Catholics and other religiously motivated business owners to choose between providing coverage for products and speech that violate their religious beliefs, and exposing their businesses to devastating penalties."
The bishops have repeatedly voiced their concern for faithful people in business so that they can continue to live out their faith in daily life.
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