Former Colorado Sen. Bill Armstrong, who served in Washington with Ronald Reagan and already has been a party to one lawsuit against Obamacare’s abortion mandate, has filed a second lawsuit, this time over a home mortgage company he co-owns.
Armstrong, a senator from 1979 to 1991, owns the Cherry Creek Mortgage Co. in Greenwood Village, Colo., with members of his family and another family. The company employs 730 people in 27 states. Each of the owners, including Armstrong, is an evangelical Christian with religious objections to providing insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs and devices.
“Americans should be free to honor God and live according to their consciences in their homes, churches, and businesses,” said Senior Counsel Michael Norton of the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing Armstrong.
“Senator Armstrong believed in that constitutional principle when he served in the U.S. Senate, and he believes in that principle today. He, his fellow co-owners, and family members that work with him believe firmly that no one should be forced to choose between their faith and their job.”
Armstrong is also the president of Colorado Christian University and a member of the board of directors for Campus Crusade for Christ.
Last year, CCU filed a lawsuit against Obamacare’s requirement that it provide abortion-inducing contraceptive services regardless of an organization’s religious beliefs.
“Many people who are pro-abortion rebel at the idea of coercing people who have a sincerely held aversion to abortion to support it,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong also said the HHS regulation violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Administrative Procedures Act and the First and Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution.
Armstrong said CCU’s lawsuit was not a broad attack on Obamacare but only on proposed regulations by HHS that require religious organizations to violate their deeply held beliefs that forbid them from supporting abortion.
“This rule will affect us in a very direct way,” he said.
In January, in a rare victory for the Obama administration, a federal judge dismissed the university’s lawsuit, agreeing with the government’s position that the case was not ripe for judicial review because the administration was in the process of making new rules.
However, as WND reported, the government’s “new rules” did not address the issue.
Under the new proposed rules, religious groups that oppose abortion are still required to offer birth control, including abortifacients, but they will now be doing so through a “third party administrator.”
Armstrong’s case is the second filed by Colorado business owners against the administration since the new “compromise” was proposed.
Norton is also representing Greeley, Colo., business owner Dr. Stephen Briscoe, who also owns multiple businesses. Collectively, Briscoe’s and Armstrong’s companies employ nearly 1,000 people.
“What the administration came out with in its so-called Compromise No. 2 isn’t helpful to religious non-profits and doesn’t materially change the game rules,” Norton said. “It likewise has no effect on for-profit corporations or business entities that are owned and run by people who have religious convictions. The government takes the view that a for-profit business is a freestanding entity that essentially belongs to the government rather than the people who built it and run it.”
In 2011, HHS announced all employers would be required to provide birth control and sterilization coverage to their employees and that the coverage would cover drugs that cause abortions. When the rules were announced, HHS claimed it would provide a narrow exemption for religious institutions that met four requirements. An organization has to have the inculcation of religious values as its purpose, primarily employ and serve persons who share its religious tenets and be a recognized non-profit organization.
Religious business owners immediately decried the move, saying they were still being required to provide services that violate their conscience.
Since the mandate was issued by Sebelius, numerous lawsuits have been filed by business owners, with most rulings going against Obama. Several judges, including at the appellate bench, have ordered the government to not enforce the mandate.
Among the cases are:
- Wheaton College of Illinois and Belmont Abbey College. Appeals judges required the administration to report back to it every 60 days beginning in February, until its promise for a new rule protecting the colleges’ religious freedom was in effect.
- Denver-based Hercules Industries challenged the contraception and abortifacient demand, and a judge prevented the government from forcing the requirement on the organization pending further court action.
- Francis A. Gilardi Jr. and Philip M. Gilardi, two brothers who own and control Freshway Foods and Freshway Logistics. The two companies employ over 400 employees in the food industry. They say the HHS mandate violates their religious beliefs.
- Bible publisher Tyndale House successfully was able to have a judge block enforcement of the mandate. The government had argued the Bible publishing company, which donated most of its money to faith causes around the world, was not religious enough to qualify for an exemption.
- Hobby Lobby, a Christian-owned company which is closed on Sundays, is in the process of fighting the mandate. A recent appeal to the Supreme Court for an immediate injunction stopping HHS from enforcing the mandate on the company was turned down by Obama appointee Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
Norton said despite its claims, the administration is not taking the concerns of religious employers seriously.
“The administration’s position ranges from incompetency to intentional interference with religious liberties,” Norton said. “I don’t know where in that spectrum administration sits, but clearly the administration is not considering First Amendment protections or the exercise of religious freedom in this latest accommodation.”
When the mandate was first issued, abortion activists decried any type or conscience exemptions for employers including churches and private business owners.
The National Organization for Women said in an action alert: “The federal government should not permit a solitary religious viewpoint to override good public health policy. Allowing certain faith-based organizations to avoid this statute is, in fact, promoting the private interests of a tiny religious minority. This exemption and all other refusal or conscience clauses infringe upon women’s constitutional right to freedom of religion and freedom from religion.”
ADF has noted that the Obama administration has suffered a staggering 10 losses and only four victories in defending Obamacare’s abortion-pill mandate. However, Norton predicts the administration’s victories could be turned into defeats as dismissed lawsuits such as the CCU case are refiled now that the administration’s proposed rules have been revealed.
“The government’s arguments in the CCU case and others has been that the case was not ripe for judicial review since the rules have not taken effect yet and they were drafting new proposed rules,” Norton said. “However, now that it is plain that these new rules are nothing but a sham, I fully expect there to be new lawsuits as well as a refilling of cases by groups such as CCU against the administration over the mandate in the next few months.”