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In a ruling that could have future impact on the health care law’s contraceptive mandate, a Colorado business does not have to comply with the law’s mandate that requires private employers to provide employees with insurance coverage of birth control. The ruling was handed down by a federal judge in Colorado, on Friday.
Members of the Catholic Newland family, which owns Hercules Industries Inc, a private manufacturer of heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment, brought the suit in April. U.S. District Judge John Kane temporarily blocked the federal government from enforcing the contraception mandate against the owners of the company.
The ruling only applies to this particular plaintiff but it does open the door for any company, in the future, to seek relief from the mandate, on religious grounds. Department of Health and Human Services attorneys argued that this temporary exemption would interfere with the government’s ability to implement the law.
Judge Kane, however, was not moved, saying the law posed an imminent harm to the company’s owners by forcing them to support contraception, sterilization and abortion in violation of their religious beliefs–or face steep fines.
Many, including Roman Catholic bishops, evangelical Christians and numerous Republican lawmakers oppose the provision. The Catholic Church has actively opposed it, having launched a campaign against it from Sunday Mass pulpits across the country. Catholic Church doctrine opposes artificial contraception.
Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is, of course, disappointment with the decision and said in a statement that, “this lawsuit was not brought by a religious organization. Rather, it was brought by a for-profit commercial enterprise whose purpose is to sell HVAC equipment.” Sebelius also expressed the opinion that healthcare decisions should be between women and their doctors, not their employers.
Matthew Bowman, an Alliance Defense Fund attorney representing Hercules countered her statement, saying that “every American, including family business owners, should be free to live and do business according to their faith.”
More than 20 lawsuits are currently pending, in various parts of the country, filed against the birth control mandate. The University of Notre Dame, Catholic University of America and the Archdiocese of New York are among those who have filed on behalf of their organizations.
Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys obtained the first-ever order against the mandate on behalf of Hercules Industries and the Catholic family that owns it. The Obama administration opposed the order, arguing, contrary to the U.S. Constitution, that people of faith forfeit their religious liberty once they engage in business.
Because Hercules Industries would be required to begin offering the new coverage when its self-insured plan renews on November 1, Alliance Defending Freedom has requested a preliminary injunction that could prevent the government from enforcing the mandate against the company by August 1, the date when the company would need to begin the process of making changes to its plan.
Short of that, the mandate could subject the Newlands to millions of dollars in fines per year if they don’t abide by its requirements. “Every American, including family business owners, should be free to live and do business according to their faith. For the time being, Hercules Industries will be able to do just that,” Bowman remarked following the decision. Bowman added, “The cost of freedom for this family could be millions of dollars per year in fines that will cripple their business if the Obama administration ultimately has its way. This lawsuit seeks to ensure that Washington bureaucrats cannot force families to abandon their faith just to earn a living. Americans don’t want politicians and bureaucrats deciding what faith is, who the faithful are, and where and how that faith may be lived out.”
The ACLU, expectedly, see things differently and released this statement: “This is not religious freedom, this is discrimination. Real religious liberty gives everyone the right to make their own decisions about their own health, including whether and when to use birth control. It doesn’t give anyone the right to impose their beliefs on others.”
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty,on the other hand, maintains that this ruling could usher in the eventual overturning of the mandate itself. But, according to Life News, federal judges have dismissed two other lawsuits filed against the requirement.
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