HHS Contraceptive Mandate Blocked for One Catholic-run Business

A Colorado firm owned by a Catholic family won a temporary injunction on July 27 against enforcement of the Department of Health and Human Services' contraceptive mandate. Senior Judge John L. Kane Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado said the HHS requirement that employers provide contraceptives, including some abortion-inducing drugs, and sterilizations free of charge to their employees, even if they have objections based on their religious beliefs, has potential for violating the family's religious freedom. He said the government's arguments in favor of the contraceptive mandate "are countered, and indeed outweighed, by the public interest in the free exercise of religion." But Kane emphasized that his ruling only applied to the case brought by five members of the Newland family and the company they own, Hercules Industries, a manufacturer of heating and air-conditioning equipment that has 265 full-time employees in Colorado. "The government's arguments are largely premised upon a fear that granting an exemption to plaintiffs will necessarily require granting similar injunction to all other for-profit, secular corporations voicing religious objections to the preventive care coverage mandate," the judge wrote. "This injunction is, however, premised upon the alleged substantial burden on plaintiffs' free exercise of religion—not to any alleged burden on any other party's free exercise of religion. "It does not enjoin enforcement of the preventive care coverage mandate against any other party," he added. The ruling marked the first positive outcome in the nearly two dozen lawsuits brought by Catholic dioceses, religious organizations and employers against the HHS contraceptive mandate, which takes effect Aug. 1 for health insurance plans that are not grandfathered. Federal judges in the District of Columbia and Lincoln, Neb., have dismissed similar suits filed by Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina and the attorneys general of seven states, respectively, saying that the plaintiffs had not proven that they would be harmed by the mandate. The Obama administration granted a one-year "temporary enforcement safe harbor" to religious organizations that do not qualify for a religious exemption under the administration's four-pronged test. The test requires exempt organizations to serve and hire only members of their own faith, among other things. "We never imagined the federal government would order our family business to provide insurance for drugs we object to covering," said Andrew Newland, vice president of Hercules Industries, at a news conference shortly before the injunction was granted. "The whole premise that family businesses are prevented from bringing morals and principles into business is such a dangerous slope to start going down," he added. "The question becomes, what ethical and moral principles do you use to run your business? We'll end up with businesses operating with no ethical or moral principles at all."

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