For a second time, the Obama administration has backpedaled on the Obamacare plan's requirement that employers provide contraceptive services for employees, including abortifacients – this time in a lawsuit brought by Michigan company and an organization of Catholics.
WND reported a week ago when U.S. District Judge John J. Kane of Colorado granted a Christian-owned company a temporary injunction blocking Obamacare's mandated coverage of sterilization, contraception and abortion-inducing drugs from being applied to the private business.
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That mandate took effect nationwide Aug. 1, but Hercules Industries of Denver, a company that manufactures air conditioning products, filed suit against the government in April, arguing Obama's mandate conflicts with the Christian faith of the business' owners.
The government fought back, claiming Hercules is not a faith-based organization. It threatened the company, which employs 265 people, with millions of dollars in fines if it refused to comply.
In a radio interview with WND's Greg Corombos, Hercules Vice President Andy Newland said, "We realized we had a choice nobody should really have to face. That's the choice to do business according to our faith, which we think is really important, or pay onerous crippling fines. And nobody, we believe, should be forced to make that decision."
Now there's word from the Thomas More Law Center in Michigan that a federal judge there has set a court date of Sept. 26 for arguments on whether the Obama administration should be enjoined from enforcing the same mandate against Ann Arbor-based Weingartz Supply Co. and Legatus, the nation's largest organization of top Catholic business leaders.
As part of that court schedule, the judge noted, "the government agreed not to enforce the regulation against plaintiffs prior to Jan. 1, 2013 …"
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Erin Mersino, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said the decision announcing a briefing schedule and hearing date was "crucial."
"It best serves our goal of protecting the religious freedoms of our clients," she continued. "Without the court's timely intervention, the HHS mandate effectively penalizes their free exercise of religion."
In that case, Judge Robert H. Cleland ordered the briefing schedule and hearing set. He also instructed that the plaintiffs' original motion for a temporary restraining order, which would have stopped enforcement of the mandate for up to 14 days, be converted into a motion for a preliminary injunction.
The Thomas More Law Center's case was against Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleeen Sebelius, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and others. It seeks to block the implementation of the Aug. 1 mandate, "which requires employers and individuals to obtain insurance coverage for abortions and contraception."
The grounds are that the Obamacare requirement "imposes clear violations of conscience on Americans who morally object to abortion and contraception." It cites the First Amendment rights to free exercise of religion and free speech as well as the establishment clause.
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Weingartz is run by Christians who object to what they say is a violation of their rights, and Legatus represents some 4,000 member business owners and leaders.
Regarding the Denver case, Matt Bowman of the Alliance Defending Freedom represents Hercules Industries, and said the government mandate on contraception is blatantly unconstitutional, and he expects the case to be watched very closely by the Catholic Church and other challengers to the mandate.
"This case does not involve stopping anybody from doing anything in terms of employees," Bowman told WND. "What it involves is using Obamacare to impose mandates on families who are just wanting to earn a living, forcing them to violate their faith and to facilitate things that violate their faith simply because they're Americans who want to have a business and follow their religious values."
The two temporary victories for religious rights could be just the tip of the iceberg, too.
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The Catholic Association, or TCA, released a statement warning, "August 1, 2012, indeed marks a seismic shift in the world of religious liberty in America. Once the mandate goes into effect, the government has codified into law the notion that employers may be required to violate the teachings of their faith if they are a for-profit employer. … August 1 is D-Day for religious freedom in America."
There have been at least 24 lawsuits filed across the nation to stop the contraception mandate from applying to various businesses.
Earlier this month, Wheaton College announced it had joined the Catholic University of America in filing suit before District of Columbia federal court.
Other organizations filing similar lawsuits include the University of Notre Dame, the Archdiocese of New York and the Catholic University of America.
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.' None of us can afford to pay the fines $100 per employee."
- 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."