Hobby Lobby's religious freedom lawsuit draws fire

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Activists attempted Thursday to deliver a petition to Hobby Lobby criticizing its challenge to a portion of the new federal health care law, but guards at the company’s headquarters turned them away.

“I thought they’d let me drop off the package,” said the Rev. Lance Schmitz, pastor of the Capitol Hill Church of the Nazarene.

Schmitz said more than 80,000 people had signed copies of a petition circulated by Faithful America, a liberal online Christian group, and UltraViolet, a women’s rights group. Schmitz said he’ll mail the petition to the company.

Hobby Lobby Sept. 12 sued the federal government in U.S. District Court in Oklamoma City. It said the company should not be forced to provide workers with health insurance that covers the morning-after and week-after pills because of the drugs’ ability to prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in a woman’s womb is tanamount to abortion.

Hobby Lobby operates 500 arts and crafts stores in 41 states. Its Christian owners say providing coverage for certain medications violates their “deeply held religious beliefs.”

Attorney Kyle Duncan, said the Greens, who owns Hobby Lobby, respect convictions of others, “including those who do not agree with them. All they are asking is for the government to give them the same respect by not forcing them to violate their religious beliefs.”

But Schmitz and spokespersons for Faithful America and UltraViolent said the drugs are contraceptives and women have a right to make their own decisions. “Access to contraceptive care is a very good thing,” Schmitz said. “This isn’t about abortion. These pills do not cause abortion. It’s contraception.”

Michael Sharrard of Faithful America said his group “is to try to counter extremists” and it represents the “mainstream majority.”

Cat Barr of UltraViolet said, “It’s a woman’s personal decision on what kind of birth control to use.”

The petitions accuse Hobby Lobby’s owners of using their Christian faith to obstruct health care reform and deny women access to birth control.

But Duncan denied that. “It’s not true,” he said. “Hobby Lobby covers the vast majority of contraceptives, will continue to do so. The only people’s rights that are being trampled on here are the Green family and the companies they operate,” he said.

Duncan said Hobby Lobby provides generous health care benefits, including birth control. But the government is trying to force it cover two specific drugs that cause abortions. “This is illegal and unconstitutional.”.

Duncan said the federal government’s own birth control guides say the drugs prevent implantation of a fertilized egg in the womb.

“Millions of Americans would consider that an early abortion,” he said. “What the petitioners need to hear immediately is that the government cannot use health care reform as an excuse for trampling on religious rights.”

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