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Hobby Lobby president expects long court battle over federal contraceptives mandate

  • The Charlotte Observer
  • Published Friday, Jan. 18, 2013, at 6:30 a.m.

— The president of Hobby Lobby, which is fighting the government’s requirement to cover all contraceptives, asked Charlotte business owners to pray for his company Thursday.

Steve Green was speaking at the inaugural meeting of the North Charlotte Christian Chamber, a group of religious businessmen and businesswomen.

Hobby Lobby, an arts and crafts retailer based in Oklahoma City, is in the midst of a lawsuit against the federal government over health care reform. The Affordable Care Act requires companies to include contraceptives, such as the morning-after pill, as part of health insurance.

Hobby Lobby maintains that some birth control products, such as the morning-after pill, are equivalent to abortion. The company has sued the government on religious freedom grounds. Hobby Lobby still potentially faces millions in fines for not following the mandate. With 13,000 employees and a proposed fine of $100 per employee per day, that would equate to $1.3 million in daily fines.

“I could never have imagined we’d be where we are,” Green said.

Founded and privately held by the Green family, Hobby Lobby is committed to operate according to biblical, Christian principles. Although Green said he couldn’t discuss the lawsuit, he said he expects a long slog through the court system.

“I just say there’s going to be an extensive court discussion and battle,” he said in response to an audience question. “In the meantime, all I know to ask for is prayers.”

But Green said that with much about the law and regulations unknown, it’s unclear how much in fines the company could owe.

“It’s not fully known what the fine is,” he said.

The company has said it is exempt from fines for a few months because it has extended its 2012 health care plan, delaying the effective date of the 2013 mandate.

After his talk at the North Charlotte Christian Chamber, Green told the Observer his family’s company didn’t want trouble. “The struggle, the battle, is coming to us. We weren’t looking for this fight,” Green said. “We’re in a period now where we feel you’re going to have to stand your ground.”

The company has 525 stores nationwide, including one on University City Boulevard. Green said the company has more than $3 billion in sales.

The Green family is behind a number of Christian initiatives, including the Passages Bible exhibit currently on display in Charlotte.

Green told the audience at the meeting that he views his work as a platform for spreading the Gospel.

“That makes it exciting to go to work and say I want to get to 1,000 stores as quick as I can, because there’s more ministry to do,” he said.

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