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Hobby Lobby invests in same drugs to which it objects?

Today Molly Redden at Mother Jones reports that Hobby Lobby holds mutual funds that invest in the manufacturers of the same pharmaceuticals and devices to which the company claims religious objection.

Documents filed with the Department of Labor and dated December 2012—three months after the company's owners filed their lawsuit—show that the Hobby Lobby 401(k) employee retirement plan held more than $73 million in mutual funds with investments in companies that produce emergency contraceptive pills, intrauterine devices, and drugs commonly used in abortions. Hobby Lobby makes large matching contributions to this company-sponsored 401(k).

Several of the mutual funds in Hobby Lobby's retirement plan have holdings in companies that manufacture the specific drugs and devices that the Green family, which owns Hobby Lobby, is fighting to keep out of Hobby Lobby's health care policies: the emergency contraceptive pills Plan B and Ella, and copper and hormonal intrauterine devices.

There would have been many ways to avoid this, since "faith-based investing" in funds that avoid "vice" industries or other objectionable companies is a well-known phenomenon with competitive rates of return.

All nine funds—which have assets of $73 million, or three-quarters of the Hobby Lobby retirement plan's total assets—contained holdings that clashed with the Greens' stated religious principles.

Hobby Lobby and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the conservative group that provided Hobby Lobby with legal representation, did not respond to questions about these investments or whether Hobby Lobby has changed its retirement plan.

I would have assumed a company taking the issue of corporate free exercise all the way to the Supreme Court would have looked into this. I doubt it would have affected the case's outcome, but it certainly could have affected the oral arguments by forcing the plaintiff to distinguish degrees of cooperation between providing health insurance options and providing retirement plan options. If these drugs and devices aren't too objectionable to invest in for your employees' retirement plans, a justice might have asked, why are they too objectionable to include as options in your employees' health insurance plans?

Read the details here.

About the Author

Michael Peppard is associate professor of theology at Fordham University, author of The World's Oldest Church and The Son of God in the Roman World, and on Twitter @MichaelPeppard.



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This is not quite on topic but many be relevant:

Pope Francis met Monday, March 31 with members of the Green family, the Oklahoma billionaires whose company, Hobby Lobby, are challenging Obama's contraception mandate.

According to Jennifer Sheran of DeMoss, the Atlanta public relations firm that represents the Greens,

"The purpose of the meeting was to thank the pope for the loan of items to the exhibit from the Vatican museum and library. The pope did ask how the (Hobby Lobby) case was progressing."

WHAT? Really?

The retirement plan is not Hobby Lobby.  The retirement plan is a separate legal entity which holds the funds invested by Hobby Lobby employees.  The funds so invested aren't Hobby Lobby's funds, they are the employees' funds.  If the plan is a typical plan, the participants themselves choose the allocation of their investments. 

Further, it isn't clear that faith-based investing satisfies the fiduciary duties of trustees of a 401(k) plan.  If it were clear that their fidiciary duties were satisfied, there is still no necessary reason to believe that the sponsorship of a plan for employees to use for investment purposes which plan includes funds which may be (and are in fact) invested in companies which create products that have illicit uses is immoral or contrary to their religious belief.   

Mr. Lynn - in all seriousness, did you read what you wrote?

The 401K plan of Hobby Lobby is not their plan - it is a separate entity.

So, whether the investments are contraceptive free or not, is not an issue.

Allow me:

The insurance plan of Hobby Lobby is not their plan - it is a separate entity.

So, whether the medical plans are contraceptive free or not is not an issue.

Hope you get my point - their argument is just as ridiuculous as your 401k separate entity argument.  If you know how insurance companies work, then they are separate legal entities - so, what is the issue again?

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