Another appeals court has ruled that the Obama administration is violating Americans’ religious rights by demanding employers provide abortifacients for their employees, but the latest ruling, from the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, goes a lot further.
It states that the Obama administration’s understanding of the law is “unsound.”
The court accuses the White House of trying to force religious believers to practice their faith only in their homes or churches, abandoning it in public. The charge has been made against the Obama administration before. For example, it has deliberately changed the Constitution reference to “freedom of religion” to “freedom of worship,” which is not the same.
The case in the Seventh Circuit was brought on behalf of Grote Industries and its owners, a family-run auto lighting company based in Madison, Ind.
The lawsuit was brought by the Alliance Defending Freedom alleging that the mandates in Obamacare force employers, “regardless of their religious or moral convictions,” to provide coverage for abortion-inducing drugs.
The case, like dozens of others filed over the same issue, alleges the requirement violates the owners’ “constitutionally protected freedom of religion and conscience.”
The decision notes that the government argued that it has the right to force the owners to violate their faith because of a prior Supreme Court statement.
The Supreme Court said: “Congress and the courts have been sensitive to the needs flowing from the Free Exercise Clause, but every person cannot be shielded from all the burdens incident to exercising every aspect of the right to practice religious beliefs. When followers of a particular sect enter into commercial activity as a matter of choice, the limits they accept on their own conduct as a matter of conscience and faith are not to be superimposed on the statutory schemes which are binding on others in that activity.”
In the current case, the court said the government “apparently reads this passage as foreclosing all religious-exercise claims arising in the course of commercial activity merely because the contact is commercial.”
“That reading is both unsound and extraordinary.
“Unsound because it would nullify the rest of the court’s opinion, which considered the Amish farmer’s claim on the merits even though his activities were for profit; the commercial context did not defeat the claim.
“And extraordinary because it would leave religious exercise wholly unprotected in the commercial sphere. At bottom, the government’s argument is premised on a far-too-narrow view of religious freedom: Religious exercise is protected in the home and the house of worship but not beyond. Religious people do not practice their faith in that compartmentalized way; free-exercise rights are not so circumscribed.”
According to ADF, the mandate “forces employers, regardless of their religious or moral convictions, to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs and devices, sterilization, and contraception under threat of heavy penalties” in violation of owners’ faith.
“All Americans, including job creators, should be free to honor God and live according to their faith,” said Senior Legal Counsel Matt Bowman, who argued before the 7th Circuit in May. “The court’s decision joins the majority of other rulings on the mandate, which have found it to excessively conflict with our nation’s guarantee of religious freedom to all Americans. The decision rightly foresees the dangers of allowing government to have this kind of power. If the government can force family business owners to act contrary to their deepest convictions under the threat of fining them out of business, it is a danger to everybody.”
About 70 lawsuits have been filed over the issue. Most have ended with an order that the Obamacare requirements cannot be enforced against the company.
The latest decision “suspends the mandate for two job creators, including a family-run auto lighting manufacturer represented by Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys and allied attorneys.”
“We hold that the plaintiffs – the business owners and their companies – may challenge the mandate. We further hold that compelling them to cover these services substantially burdens their religious exercise rights…,” the 7th Circuit’s decision states. “On the government’s understanding of religious liberty, a Jewish restaurant operating for profit could be denied the right to observe Kosher dietary restrictions. That cannot be right. There is nothing inherently incompatible between religious exercise and profit-seeking.”
The circuit court ruling also noted that “the federal government has placed enormous pressure on the plaintiffs to violate their religious beliefs and conform to its regulatory mandate.”
The court said the real issue is not an employee’s use of abortifacients but employers’ objections “to being forced to provide insurance coverage for these drugs and services in violation of their faith.”
The judges also noted that the government “has not made any effort to explain how the contraception mandate is the least restrictive means of furthering its stated goals of promoting public health and gender equality.”
The issue already has been presented to the U.S. Supreme Court for review.
The court could soon decide whether to accept that specific case, brought by Liberty Counsel on behalf of Liberty University.
“Obamacare is a train wreck. It is hard to see how Obamacare will ultimately survive. Whether it be the judiciary or the legislative process, this law will almost certainly be overturned because it is unworkable on so many levels,” said Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, Friday after the latest brief was filed.
The Fourth and 10th Circuits also have made rulings similar to the Seventh decision.
The Obama administration wants the high court to ignore the case, but Liberty Counsel contends the administration “fails to recognize significant differences between the employer mandate and the individual mandate that affect the constitutional arguments, and thereby fails to appreciate the extent of the conflict between the Fourth Circuit’s decision and this court’s precedents.”