Dozens of members of Congress have signed up to back a challenge to Obamacare's mandate that employers provide contraceptive services – including abortifacients – to employees under their health care programs.
That requirement has been imposed even on employers whose religious faith forbids their participation in the deaths of unborn infants.
A number of lawsuits have been filed over the issue, one federal judge already has halted enforcement against a Denver company, and the government voluntarily has waived enforcement for now in a case brought on behalf of a Michigan company.
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Now the American Center for Law and Justice is representing 79 members of Congress with amicus briefs filed in 12 separate lawsuits brought by more than 40 Catholic organizations suing over the requirement.
The plaintiffs in the cases include the Archdiocese of New York, Notre Dame, the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago and others.
According to lawyers handling the friend-of-the-court briefs, the cases challenge the Obama administration's demand that employers cover sterilization, prescription contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs and related patient education and counseling services in their health insurance plans.
Edward White, senior counsel for activist legal team, said, "It is essential to defeat the HHS mandate. The mandate devastates the religious freedom of all employers seeking to comply with their religious beliefs."
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He continued, "This is not just an issue negatively impacting Catholics. This is an issue negatively impacting employers of all faiths."
In the briefs submitted in the cases backing the Catholic organizations, the ACLJ opposes the federal government's motions to dismiss the 12 lawsuits. The briefs were submitted with requests that the courts accept them for filing.
Joining the ACLJ in the filings were:
- Jeff Landry, La.
- Robert Aderholt, Ala.
- Todd Akin, Mo.
- Mark Amodei, Nev.
- Michele Bachmann, Minn.
- Spencer Bachus, Ala.
- Lou Barletta, Pa.
- Roscoe Bartlett, Md.
- Dan Benishek, Mich.
- Gus Bilirakis, Fla.
- Diane Black, Tenn.
- Marsha Blackburn, Tenn.
- Charles Boustany, La.
- Kevin Brady, Texas
- Paul Broun, Ga.
- Dan Burton, Ind.
- Francisco "Quico" Canseco, Texas
- Bill Cassidy, La.
- Steve Chabot, Ohio
- Michael Conaway, Texas
- Chip Cravaack, Minn.
- Jeff Duncan, S.C.
- Renee Ellmers, N.C.
- Stephen Fincher, Tenn.
- John Fleming, La.
- Bill Flores, Texas
- J. Randy Forbes, Va.
- Jeff Fortenberry, Neb.
- Virginia Foxx, N.C.
- Bob Goodlatte, Va.
- Gregg Harper, Miss.
- Andy Harris, Md.
- Vicky Hartzler, Mo.
- Wally Herger, Calif.
- Tim Huelskamp, Kan.
- Bill Huizenga, Mich.
- Bill Johnson, Ohio
- Walter Jones, N.C.
- Jim Jordan, Ohio
- Mike Kelly, Pa.
- Steve King, Iowa
- John Kline, Minn.
- Raul Labrador, Idaho
- Doug Lamborn, Colo.
- James Lankford, Okla.
- Bob Latta, Ohio
- Dan Lipinski, Ill.
- Blaine Luetkemeyer, Mo.
- Dan Lungren, Calif.
- Don Manzullo, Ill.
- Jeff Miller, Fla.
- Mick Mulvaney, S.C.
- Tim Murphy, Pa.
- Randy Neugebauer, Texas
- Alan Nunnelee, Miss.
- Pete Olson, Texas
- Steven Palazzo, Miss.
- Ron Paul, Texas
- Steve Pearce, N.M.
- Joe Pitts, Pa.
- Ted Poe, Texas
- Mike Pompei, Kan.
- Ben Quayle, Ariz.
- Reid Ribble, Wis.
- Phil Roe, Tenn.
- Todd Rokita, Ind.
- Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Fla.
- Dennis Ross, Fla.
- Steve Scalise, La.
- Bobby Schilling, Ill.
- Jean Schmidt, Ohio
- David Schweikert, Ariz.
- Adrian Smith, Neb.
- Chris Smith, N.J.
- Lamar Smith, Texas
- Glenn Thompson, Pa.
- Tim Walberg, Mich.
- Lynn Westmoreland, Ga.
- and Joe Wilson, S.C.
The briefs explain the mandate runs counter to America's long and proud tradition of accommodating the religious beliefs and practices of all its citizens. The briefs contend that the mandate imposes an unconstitutional burden on individuals and organizations, who firmly oppose having to subsidize, provide, and/or facilitate activities and services that are contrary to their religious beliefs.
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Just hours earlier, it was announced that Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed another federal lawsuit against the Obama administration on behalf of two evangelical Christian colleges: Grace College and Seminary in Indiana and Biola University in California.
It was the latest to challenge the administration's mandate that faith-based employers provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs at no cost to employees regardless of religious or moral objections.
"Christian colleges should remain free to operate according to their deeply held beliefs. Punishing religious people and organizations for freely exercising their faith is an assault on our most fundamental American freedoms," said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Gregory S. Baylor. "This mandate leaves religious employers with no real choice: you must either comply and abandon your religious freedom and conscience, or resist and be taxed for your faith. Every American should know that a government with the power to do this to anyone can do this – and worse – to everyone."
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"The Obama administration's mandate forces us to act against our own doctrinal statement, which upholds the sanctity of human life," said Biola University President Barry H. Corey. "It unjustly intrudes on our religious liberty as protected under the U.S. Constitution and makes a mockery of our attempts to live our lives according to our faith convictions, time-honored and long protected."
ADF attorneys previously filed three other lawsuits against the mandate: one on behalf of Geneva College and The Seneca Hardwood Lumber Company in Pennsylvania, one on behalf of Louisiana College in Louisiana, and one on behalf of Hercules Industries in Colorado, in which a federal judge issued an order preventing the mandate from being enforced against the family-run business. The lawsuits represent a large cross-section of Protestants and Catholics who object to the mandate.
Also this week, the the American Center for Law and Justice filed a request for an injunction halting application of the mandate against a Missouri company.
The brief argues that the government already has determined that the mandate is a "burden" on religious rights.
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"In a press release issued on Jan. 20, 2012, announcing the finalization of the mandate and the temporary safe harbor period for nonprofit entities that object to contraceptive services, defendant [Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen] Sebelius opined that the temporary reprieve 'strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventative services.'
"Subsequently, in a press release issued on July 31, 2012, Sebelius stated that 'the Obama administration will continue to work with all employers to give them the flexibility and resources they need to implement the health care law in a way that protects women's health while making common-sense accommodations for values like religious liberty.'"
The legal brief, filed in U.S. District court for the Eastern District of Missouri, continued. "The defendants cannot make a straight-faced argument in this litigation that the mandate does not impose a substantial burden on the exercise of religious beliefs. Indeed, the defendants have postponed for a year the application of regulations that purportedly advance a compelling governmental interest solely because of the burden the defendants themselves recognize that these regulation impose on the exercise of religion.
"Clearly, nothing but a burden of a 'substantial' nature could justify such a postponement," the brief said.
The injunction request was filed on behalf of Frank R. O'Brien and O'Brien Industrial Holdings LLC, a company based in St. Louis. O'Brien is chairman of the company that explores, mines and processes raw materials, exporting to 40 nations.
The Michigan case is being pursued by the Thomas More Law Center on behalf of Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Weingartz Supply Co. and Legatus, the nation's largest organization of top Catholic business leaders.
In the most recent filing there, attorneys for Weingartz said the Obama administration either doesn't care about or doesn't like Catholics so much it is forcing them to choose between their beliefs or the federal law,.
"The defendants offer numerous secular and even religious exemptions to the HHS mandate, but fail to offer the same respect to the Catholic beliefs of the plaintiffs – showing that defendants either care so little about those professing Catholic beliefs that they will not be bothered to address their concerns or showing that defendants are patently discriminating against and disrespecting those holding Catholic beliefs," said the brief filed this week in support of a preliminary injunction that would protect the plaintiffs while the case moves through the courts," the filing said.
There, the government has waived application of the requirement because of the court case.
And leaders of of a multitude of religious-advocacy groups are warning of the Obamacare contraception mandate consequences for business owners of faith:
- Larry Cirignano, president of Faithful Catholic Citizens: "Give up your religion or go bankrupt. This is not a mandate; it is an ultimatum. Buy insurance and kill babies or go bankrupt fighting us. Not all of us can afford lawyers to fight this 'mandate.'"
- Matt Smith, president of Catholic Advocate: "Aug. 1 will be remembered as the day our most cherished liberty was thrown in a government dumpster and hauled away. A day when family owned small businesses were forced to abandon their religious beliefs to provide products and services for free. And if they don't, they will be taxed and fined at a time when job creators are struggling with enough costs and bureaucratic red-tape at every level of government just to stay in business. While the courts have provided a reprieve for one family business in Colorado, the government will never be able to repair the broken conscience of thousands of others until this mandate is removed."
- Brent Bozell, chairman of ForAmerica: "August 1st is a day that will live in infamy for the First Amendment and the fundamental freedoms and rights we as a people have enjoyed since the founding of our nation. The HHS mandate imposed on the American people is the beginning of the end of freedom as America has known it and loved it. August 1st marks the day when many family owned and operated businesses lose their rights to exercise their faith in their daily lives. The government has told them – either comply with this mandate in violation of your faith and do what we tell you, or you will pay crippling faith fines to the federal government. With the stroke of a pen, the Obama administration has shredded the First Amendment and the Constitution right before our eyes."
- Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute: "The Obama administration's assault on religious liberty is taking root … Failure to comply with the mandate will result in penalties that could cost business millions of dollars. The administration clearly did not reach a much-vaunted 'accommodation' with business owners who strongly oppose the mandate and believe it is a clear violation of their constitutional protection of religious liberty. The HHS mandate forces business owners to choose between following their religious beliefs or obedience to the federal government. The Obama administration clearly believes the government is supreme and that individuals and businesses must bow to its dictates or suffer severe consequences. We know that Obamacare is wrong for America. The HHS anti-conscience mandate is clear evidence of why the law violates the most fundamental principles upon which our country is founded."
- Gary Marx, executive director of the Faith & Freedom Coalition: "Confidence in the system and hope for religious liberty was mildly restored when a federal district judge issued a temporary injunction blocking Barack Obama's health-care mandate from compelling a business to provide insurance coverage of sterilization, contraception, and abortion-inducing drugs. This is certainly a victory, but the fact that it only applies to one company means the federal government is still going to force millions of Americans to choose between having health insurance or their conscience and faith. With an administration intent on suppressing religious liberty, we can expect a historic turnout of voters of faith show up in November."
- Penny Nance, president and CEO of Concerned Women for America: "The only solution that has been provided to the majority of Americans is to stand up and fight for their religious rights by refusing to comply or battling in court. ... We must remember the wise words of Thomas Jefferson, 'All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.' To force religious groups to deny their deeply held convictions is not called balance; it is called tyranny."
- Jeanne Monahan, director of the Family Research Council's Center for Human Dignity: "Today as a result of this initial implementation of the HHS mandate, the relationship between the separation of church and state is critically changed. Americans can no longer follow their consciences or religious dictates on issues as critical as abortion-inducing drugs. Organizations such as Wheaton College, or businesses such as Weingartz Supply of Ann Arbor, Mich.,will be forced to violate their consciences. On this sad day Americans have no 'choice' in this matter."
- David Stevens, MD and CEO of the Christian Medical Association: "What will stop this administration, with its radical pro-abortion agenda, from further undermining conscience rights and pursuing policies that effectively force out of medicine physicians with life-honoring convictions? Who will keep government panels from effectively denying physicians and patients choice about what are the most effective and appropriate medicines, surgeries and treatments? We call on Congress to turn back this law's assault on our freedoms and restore American values and constitutional principles in health care."
- Paul E. Rondeau, executive director of American Life League: "History tragically teaches us that if our government can abolish one constitutional right, then all constitutional rights are put in jeopardy. This path sets a dangerous and foolish precedent that First Amendments rights such as freedom of speech, association, freedom of the press and the rights to assemble and petition the government may be just as easily curtailed in the future. We call on all citizens to tell their elected representatives that this erosion of rights must not stand."
- Kristin Hawkins, executive director of Students for Life of America: "Today marks the beginning of the end of religious and conscience rights in America. As an employer, I am forced to make a false choice between providing a vital service to my employees and violating my conscience and values. The abortion-pill mandate is an egregious attack upon my rights, as well as the rights of all people of values and faith in America."