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The owners of Hobby Lobby have made their lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act one about religious liberties. The Green family has taken its sincerely held beliefs all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court -- and energized conservative Christians along the way.
These opponents of Obamacare argue companies should not be forced to provide birth control coverage as part of their health insurance plans for workers. Hobby Lobby owners believe life begins at conception, so they'd either have to violate their religious beliefs by have contraceptive devices covered in the plan -- or pay millions in fines.
So it was a surprising revelation this week the Hobby Lobby 401(k) plan does not allow sincerely held religious beliefs to get in the way of making money.
Investigative journalists at Mother Jones magazine found a number of interesting publicly traded company stocks amongst the various mutual funds Hobby Lobby controls. They include: Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, maker of the morning-after pill Plan B and ParaGard, an intrauterine device; Pfizer, maker of the drugs Cytotec and Prostin E2 used to induce abortions; Forest Laboratories, maker of Cervidil, which also is used to induce abortions; and the health insurance companies Aetna and Humana, which offer policies covering emergency contraception and surgical abortions.
We're not sure if attorneys representing the federal government offered any of this information to the justices, but it would appear to be pertinent information.
The religious credentials of David Green and his family up to this point have been beyond reproach. Green is the son of a preacher who founded his mega-business on biblical principles. Hobby Lobby has $3.3 billion in annual sales, and Green takes half of the pretax earnings and commits it directly to a portfolio of evangelical ministries. In 2004, he gave $10.5 million to Jerry Falwell's Liberty University. In 2007, he helped bail out financially troubled Oral Roberts University with $70 million. He has put more than a billion pieces of gospel literature in homes in more than 100 countries. And just last week, he was at the Vatican having a personal audience with Pope Francis, preparing for the launch of the traveling exhibit "Verbum Domini II." It is the second time the Green family has put pieces of their personal collection of rare biblical texts and artifacts on display in Rome.
So to discover this pious man invests in companies one would have thought off-limits is more than stunning.
"This is the height of hypocrisy," Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement. "Hobby Lobby's CEO wants to deny the company's 13,000 employees access to affordable birth control, while investing in pharmaceutical companies that make it."
Hobby Lobby thus far has opted not to comment about its investment strategy, so we're not sure how the owners reconcile the chasm between word and deed. It will be interesting to see if the U.S. Supreme Court can find "sincerely held beliefs" in a company that appears to be practicing cafeteria Catholicism.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry