Hobby Lobby wins injunction against the HHS mandate

As we reported previously, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Hobby Lobby, a privately-owned for-profit business, can exercise religious freedom.  This court found that a lower federal district court’s ruling to deny injunctive relief was wrong.  That district court today, in accord with the Appeals court ruling, has granted an injunction to Hobby Lobby.  

The Hobby Lobby case is of great significance in the fight for religious freedom against the HHS mandate.  The Obama Department of Justice has argued that people who start businesses lose their right to religious freedom–that they cannot run their businesses according to the moral and ethical tenets of their faith.  The Court of Appeals found differently.  The Department of Justice will surely appeal to the Supreme Court, because this Appeals Court ruling undermines the legitimacy and applicability of Obamacare.  

Politically, this is an important victory as well.  Hobby Lobby is owned by Evangelical Christians who have no moral objections to contraceptives.  This makes it difficult for HHS mandate supporters to trot out the “war on women” meme and paint Hobby Lobby as mean patriarchs trying to deny birth control to poor women.

This will not be settled until the Supreme Court hears the cases.  

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Conscience objection by medical professionals in New Zealand

In this story, a doctor in New Zealand exercised a right that pharmacists in Nevada do not have.  In New Zealand, a doctor can refuse to prescribe or dispense medication with which he has a conscientious objection.  Dr Lee, of Blenheim, New Zealand, refused to prescribe contraceptives to a young woman.  Further, he is reported to have recommended Natural Family Planning to patients.  A group called the Abortion Law Reform Association NZ has come out against Dr Lee, stating that contraception was basic health care for women and that no doctor should have the right to refuse to provide contraceptives.

Nevada legislators would do well to examine New Zealand practices.  A doctor can refuse to provide procedures or services based on his conscience, and refers the patient to another doctor.  In Nevada, doctors can refuse to perform abortions, but pharmacists must provide contraceptives, even against their consciences.  

Why is it so difficult to understand the conscience rights of all people?

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Is the HHS mandate delayed with the employer mandate?

The Obama Administration recently announced that the “employer mandate” of the PPACA (Obamacare) would be delayed until 2015.  This is the part of the law that mandates that employers with more than 50 employees provide health care coverage, or face stiff fines.  Many have wondered, does this action also delay the “HHS mandate” which requires employers with more than 50 employees to provide contraception, abortion drugs, and sterilization in employee health care plans, free of copay.  

The Becket Fund says, “no.”  The HHS mandate was recently finalized, and lawsuits are not affected by this recent action by the Treasury Department.  The HHS mandate remains a threat to religious freedom and, if not changed, will force many organizations and businesses into a choice between crippling fines or violating their faith.

The “individual mandate” is also not affected.

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Faith leaders issue “open letter” on HHS mandate and conscience protection

Clergy, theologians, university presidents, and others have issued an open letter to all Americans on religious freedom.  The letter calls the HHS mandate a “coercive policy” that would force citizens to violate their faiths.  The letter asks the HHS to expand conscience protections to any organization or citizen who has moral or religious objections to providing the required “services,” contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs.

Will this letter accomplish anything?  I doubt it.  Though well-intentioned, the letter simply restates what people have been saying for 18 months now.  The HHS mandate violates religious freedom, the government has no right to determine who or what type of organization or activity or person enjoys religious freedom, and this administration is violating the Bill of Rights and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  We got all that–but the administration continues to spit in the face of people of faith.  What will we do about it?

The administration isn’t budging one inch on this matter, and will not voluntarily do so, because the HHS mandate is a policy based on ideology.  To back down would betray the core constituency of this administration–Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry.

This issue might be solved in the courts.  Given the mixed judgments at the appellate court level, the issue will probably be taken up by the Supreme Court.  But, looking at the latest string of decisions against marriage, I’m not so sure that the Supreme Court will not find some “emanation” from a “penumbra” of the Constitution which establishes a right to free contraception and abortion drugs for every American.  

The issue could be solved with the repeal of Obamacare as a whole.  Obamacare is on a wobbly foundation, especially with the administration single-handedly overturning the action of the legislature in delaying the employer mandate.  Obamacare won’t be repealed until both houses of Congress and the President are from a party not beholden to Planned Parenthood.

The real question that we face, I think, is what will people do when their organization must comply with the HHS mandate or face crippling fines?  Who will continue to fight when the crunch comes?  Which for-profit business is willing to pay the fines?  What bishop is willing to allow his Catholic Charities to drown under the weight of fines and penalties?  Which Catholic university will cut back faculty salaries or sports or new dorms to pay the fines?  We will see soon enough–who will give in, buy contraceptives, and mumble “it was the only way to keep our charitable operations going?”  The Archdiocese of New York, for example, pays for contraceptives for some workers.  From their own press release:

However, ArchCare had no other option but to pay into the fund which administers the union members’ benefits “under protest” to continue to offer insurance to its union workers and remain in the health care field in New York.

 

The times are going to get even more interesting–on August 1st, the HHS mandate goes into effect for those non-profit employers with a religious objection who were given a one-year safe harbor from mandate enforcement. 

Will we see peaceful civil disobedience?  Or acquiescence? 

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Florida company wins injunction against HHS mandate

Beckwith Electric, a family company owned by Thomas Beckwith and represented by the Thomas More Law Center, has won an injunction in Federal District Court in Florida. The judge ordered that the HHS not enforce the mandate against Beckwith Electric. 

Beckwith Electric employs 168 people in the manufacture and engineering of micro-processors for electrical equipment.  Thomas Beckwith’s parents started the company in the family garage in 1967.  Beckwith is a Southern Baptist, and he will violate his deeply held religious beliefs if forced to provide abortion-inducing drugs to employees.

The judge’s ruling is worth is worth reading.  Her conclusion is clear and powerful:

The First Amendment, and its statutory corollary the RFRA, endow upon the citizens of the United States the unalienable right to exercise religion, and that right is not relinquished by efforts to engage in free enterprise under the corporate form. No legislative, executive, or judicial officer shall corrupt the Framers’ initial expression, through their enactment of laws, enforcement oft hose laws, or more importantly, their interpretation of those laws. And any action that debases, or cheapens, the intrinsic value of the tenet of religious tolerance that is entrenched in the Constitution cannot stand.

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Final HHS mandate rule issued — with no changes

As expected, the Obama administration has issued the final rule about the HHS mandate.  Despite all the spin and promises to accommodate religious organizations, the rule is abhorrent in how it defines “religious organization,” and in how it forces even those organizations to play a shell game in paying for objectionable services.  

“Religious employers” are primarily houses of worship under the HHS rule, and will not be required to provide free contraception, abortion-inducing drugs, and sterilization to employees.  And religious organizations that do object will not have to buy the “services” directly, but through a third party.  Catholic hospitals, Evangelical colleges, and charities will still have to pay for these “services” for their employees, only now through an additional layer.  

The “safe harbor” year for objecting religious organizations will end on the first of August.  Will those organizations stand firm? 

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Hobby Lobby wins major victory against HHS mandate

A federal district court today ordered the HHS to not enforce the mandate against Hobby Lobby, in a major ruling.  The Federal District Court in Oklahoma granted a temporary restraining order against the HHS, pending a hearing to review Hobby Lobby’s request for an injunction.  This ruling followed immediately after the entire 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday that private businesses do have the right of religious freedom.  

The 10th Circuit was considering, in the words of the court, 

This case requires us to determine whether the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Free Exercise Clause protect the plaintiffs—two companies and their owners who run their businesses to reflect their religious values.

 

In the first such finding by a U.S. appeals court, the 10th Circuit ruled, 

We hold that Hobby Lobby and Mardel are entitled to bring claims under RFRA, have established a likelihood of success that their rights under this statute are substantially burdened by the contraceptive-coverage requirement, and have established an irreparable harm.

 

This ruling is extraordinary and is a major victory against the HHS mandate.  The Department of Justice will certainly appeal the government’s case, and to the Supreme Court.  

 

 

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