Days after the June 30 Supreme Court decision ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby’s right to religious freedom, which angered liberals nationwide, news about its investments were publicized on social media. The court judgment was based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which protects against “substantial burden on a person’s exercise of religion,” as well as the First Amendment’s free exercise clause, which guarantees that employers have the right to break laws that they claim violate their religious beliefs.
Hobby Lobby, the arts-and-crafts empire, sued the Obama Administration via the U.S. Supreme Court to seek a reprieve from having to provide contraceptive benefits required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). And, they won. The case was widely publicized, as it represented a landmark decision on the rights of corporations and it extended personal religious protection toward a corporation.
In fact, it subsequently voted in support of several corporations. After its 5-4 decision that companies held by a small number of individuals could determine whether or not to include birth control for their employees, it expanded that judgment. The Court ruled in favor of six other pending cases related to employers’ religious objections towards Obamacare. Privately held companies can, based on their religious beliefs, refuse to cover their employees for birth control needs.
However, the news story of Hobby Lobby’s investments was originally published three months before the Supreme Court ruling of June 30. This means that the data contained in the report, as uncovered by Mother Jones magazine, could have been used as testimony in the decision. The evidence was not merely circumstantial.
Molly Redden of Mother Jones learned through her research that in December 2012 Hobby Lobby filed their Annual Report of Employee Benefit Plan with the Department of Labor, showing that the company had more than $73 million in mutual funds.
Hobby Lobby matched funds for their employees’ 401K retirement plan. Their investments were in pharmaceutical companies that manufacture intrauterine devices (IUDs), drugs used for abortion, and emergency contraceptive pills.
In early April a boycott against Hobby Lobby was begun on Facebook, with over 17,000 likes and nearly that many angry comments from liberals across the country, due to the then uncovered investment scandal. To exacerbate the situation, identified in the brief that Hobby Lobby submitted to the Court to support their case, are the same contraceptive products that are manufactured by the pharmaceutical companies that the Plaintiffs say violate their religious beliefs.
These include four companies that manufacture products preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in a woman’s uterus – Plan B, Ella, and IUDs. These are the same products that the company owners, the Green family, say produce results tantamount to abortion.
According to the Mother Jones April 2014 report, Hobby Lobby did know what the companies they invested in manufacture. It is their obligation to know this. These investments comprise three-quarters of the Plaintiff’s retirement assets. Moreover, they could have opted for investment in mutual funds that cater to objection on religious grounds. There are investment management firms that specifically screen out stocks that might be considered morally objectionable on religious grounds.
Hobby Lobby employs thousands of people and owns over 600 stores across the U.S. The company is listed in Forbes and Fortune’s list of America’s largest private companies, and their owners, the Green family, are billionaires. Their website has a statement that they “believe that it is God’s grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has endured” since its inception in 1970. The Green family attends a Baptist church in Oklahoma, where the company was founded.
The decision that extended a personal religious Act to corporations and subjects employees to the religious beliefs of their employers raised fury across the nation. That Hobby Lobby invested in the very companies that manufacture devices that it sued the U.S. government over, angered liberals three months before the Supreme Court decision. That rage has been fueled anew nationwide by the apparent hypocrisy inherent in the case.
Opinion by Fern Remedi-Brown