By Dave Andrusko
While the Friday decision by a federal judge was only a first step and limited to a single company, it’s very encouraging nonetheless that Colorado District Judge John Kane halted enforcement of Obama’s mandate against a family-owned business while a lawsuit challenging the mandate is pursued in court.
The mandate which has stirred tremendous opposition, forces employers, regardless of their religious or moral convictions, to pay for health insurance plans that cover medical procedures and drugs under threat of heavy penalties.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorneys obtained this first-ever order against the mandate on behalf of Hercules Industries, a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning manufacturer which employs 265 people and which self-insures. ADF requested the 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.
“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,” said ADF Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. “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.”
In his order, Judge Kane said that the government’s arguments “are countered, and indeed outweighed, by the public interest in the free exercise of religion. As the Tenth Circuit has noted, ‘there is a strong public interest in the free exercise of religion even where that interest may conflict with [another statutory scheme]….’ Accordingly, the public interest favors entry of an injunction in this case.”
Hannah Smith, Senior Counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty which was also involved in the case, said “Judge Kane’s ruling today in favor of a religious for-profit plaintiff challenging the coercive HHS mandate got the law right. Religious liberty rights don’t stop at the store-front door.”
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed the first lawsuits against the HHS mandate representing five clients: Belmont Abbey College, Colorado Christian University, Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), Ave Maria University, and Wheaton College. There are currently over 20 lawsuits pending around the country against the HHS mandate.
Kane ruled both that the plaintiffs have shown “irreparable harm” would occur if the injunction were not issued and that the Obama Administration’s previous actions had undercut its own argument.
“Defendants argue that entry of the requested injunction is contrary to the public interest, because it would ‘undermine [their] ability to effectuate Congress’s goals of improving the health of women and children and equalizing the coverage of preventive services for women and men so that women who choose to do so can be part of the workforce on an equal playing field with men.’ This asserted interest is, however, undermined by the creation of exemptions for certain religious organizations and employers with grandfathered health insurance plans and a temporary enforcement safe harbor for non-profit organizations. These interests are countered, and indeed outweighed, by the public interest in the free exercise of religion.”
After the injunction was issued, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) said
“The Obama administration tried to use the unprecedented and unchecked power of the health care law to justify this attack on religious freedom. This case is just the latest chapter of how Obamacare can and will change the daily lives of every American – in ways that we still don’t even know given the thousands of pages of regulations that have resulted from the 2,700 page law and the thousands more to come.
“But today, the Court granted a temporary reprieve from this unacceptable and unworkable mandate. Other challenges should likewise be granted to shield Americans from a law that violates their core beliefs, which are protected by the most fundamental constitutional principles.”
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