A first: Judge rules against HHS mandate
DENVER (BP) -- A federal judge has handed opponents of the Obama administration's abortion/contraceptive mandate their first victory, ruling in favor of a private business whose owners are devout Catholics.
It was the first time a federal judge had ruled against the mandate, which requires employers to purchase insurance plans that cover contraceptives, including ones that can cause chemical abortions. Those drugs, often called morning-after pills and emergency contraceptives, come under various names, including Plan B and ella.
There currently are about 24 lawsuits seeking to overturn the mandate. Many of the suits involve religious organizations.
The mandate was issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
In his Friday (July 27) ruling, Judge John L. Kane of the U.S. District Court of Colorado ruled that the business -- Colorado-based Hercules Industries -- would suffer "irreparable harm" absent a preliminary injunction. The business is self-insured. The lawsuit now will proceed on an expedited basis.
Although the injunction applies only to Hercules Industries, it eventually could have a more far-reaching impact. The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is representing the company.
"This lawsuit seeks to ensure that Washington bureaucrats cannot force families to abandon their faith just to earn a living," ADF attorney Matt Bowman said in a statement. "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 business owners -- the Newlands -- "seek to run Hercules in a manner that reflects their sincerely held religious beliefs," Kane said in his ruling. The business even added a provision to its articles of incorporation allowing the board of directors to prioritize "religious, ethical or moral standards" over profitability.
Kane, a nominee of President Carter, issued the injunction based on a federal law -- the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) -- and not based on the mandate's alleged violations of the U.S. Constitution.
"Because Plaintiffs’ RFRA challenge provides adequate grounds for the requested injunctive relief, I decline to address their challenges under the Free Exercise, Establishment and Freedom of Speech Clauses of the First Amendment," Kane wrote.
Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.