RICHMOND, Va. (Legal Newsline) -- In a radio interview last week, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli suggested that going to jail may be a good way to protest a mandate under the federal health care law that requires employers to provide contraceptive coverage.
On Wednesday, Cuccinelli, who is Catholic, told conservative host Steve Deace that he spoke to a bishop who said he was ready to go to jail over the contraceptive mandate.
"I told him, 'Bishop, don't take this personally -- you need to go to jail,'" Cuccinelli told Deace, according to Fox News.
The mandate is currently being challenged in a federal lawsuit by the Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby Stores Inc.
The arts and crafts retailer and fellow plaintiffs David Green, Barbara Green, Steve Green, Mart Green and Darsee Lett, in their suit filed in September, describe themselves as "committed evangelical Christians."
David Green serves as CEO of the chain, which, according to its website, has 514 stores nationwide.
In its 40-page complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, the store argues that the mandate would force "religiously-motivated business owners," such as themselves, to "violate their faith under threat of millions of dollars in fines."
"The Green family believes they are obligated to run their businesses in accordance with their faith," the complaint states. "Commitment to Jesus Christ and to Biblical principles is what gives their business endeavors meaning and purpose."
The chain also argues that the mandate "illegally and unconstitutionally coerces the Green family to violate their deeply-held religious beliefs under threat of heavy fines, penalties and lawsuits," according to the complaint.
With more than 13,000 full-time employees, Hobby Lobby contends it faces fines of about $26 million a year -- that is, if it drops employee insurance altogether -- and additional fines of $1.3 million a day if it chooses to offer insurance that does not include all of the mandated drugs and services.
"Having to pay fines for the privilege of practicing one's religion or controlling one's own speech is alien to our American traditions of individual liberty, religious tolerance and limited government," the store's complaint states.
"It is also illegal and unconstitutional."
Just months after his swearing-in in 2010, Cuccinelli filed his own lawsuit against President Barack Obama's controversial federal health care law. He was the first attorney general to do so.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit eventually ruled in the attorney general's case that he did not have standing to challenge the law on behalf of the state of Virginia because the State wouldn't be affected by the mandate. Only individual Virginians would be, the court said in overturning a district judge's ruling.
In his interview with Deace, the now-gubernatorial candidate said employers may have to go to jail to "provide an example of what tyranny means when it's played to its logical conclusion."
"Abraham Lincoln has many good quotes, but one of them is, 'The best way to get rid of a bad law is to enforce it vigorously,'" Cuccinelli said on the show, according to Fox.
From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.