Matt Bowman, attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom, represents several of the plaintiffs suing the Obama administration over the HHS mandate. He shares his thoughts about strategy and the upcoming cases. Bowman notes, after the late November ruling against the Obama administration and for business owner Frank O’Brien,
That means four out of the five court rulings on this Obamacare mandate against businesses have issued injunctions in favor of religious freedom. The fifth, Hobby Lobby, is seeking a similar order on appeal.
Many of the religious organizations suing the administration have had their cases rejected, primarily because they are not yet paying the crippling fines imposed by the mandate and cannot therefore show harm. But these business owners are facing the fines immediately, and the courts have ruled in their favor. As Bowman notes the Obama administration’s arguments have been quite specious, and the courts have thrown them out.
The government presents a circular argument to explain why people cannot exercise religion when they earn a living for their families in a business. First, the government says religious exercise cannot happen through corporations. But corporations are just a mechanism by which people associate, act, and contribute to society. This is why the Supreme Court has vindicated religious-freedom claims for several incorporated plaintiffs (such as Lukumi, Inc., and O Centro Espirita, Inc.).
The government’s response to this point is to shift ground and say it is a company’s “for profit” status that renders a corporation incapable of exercising religion. But the Supreme Court has likewise recognized the ability to bring free-exercise claims on behalf of for-profit enterprises, such as for an Amish business in United States v. Lee, and for plaintiffs seeking compensation. The courts have consistently recognized the ability of closely held corporation owners to bring religious-exercise claims.
Bowman concludes with what is the real bottom-line issue at stake in this fight:
The Obama administration is declaring entire areas of human life “secular” — like business, health care, and education — and then saying religion can’t be exercised there, so the government can have its way. This is a power-grab — an attempt to confine religion itself into a diminishing and microscopic category. It is inconsistent with the history and precedent behind the First Amendment as well as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.