WASHINGTON, D.C., August 13, 2013 (LifeSiteNews) – In a move that underscores the hot-and-cold approach of the Obama administration toward enforcement of its controversial Obamacare contraceptive coverage mandate, the Justice Department announced last week that it will not mount a defense against a lawsuit filed by a Michigan-based weapons company seeking a religiously-based exemption from the rule.
Trijicon, which manufactures optics and aiming systems for military, law enforcement, hunting and self-defense, sued the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in May arguing that the HHS mandate violates the company owners’ deeply held Christian belief that life begins at conception.
The HHS mandate requires employers provide full, co-pay free coverage for contraceptives, sterilizations and abortion-causing drugs as part of their health plans. While churches and certain religious charities are exempt from the requirement, the law does not make provision for business owners who oppose the mandate on religious grounds. Dozens of lawsuits have been filed by such business owners in an attempt to extend the mandate’s religious freedom protections to cover them, as well.
Trijicon’s owners “object to covering items in their health plan that they believe to cause early abortion,” according to their lawsuit. “Defendants [HHS], however, are mandating that Trijicon violate its and its owners' beliefs by covering such items in next year's employee health insurance plan which begins on September 1, 2013.”
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“My father began this business with the intent of treating our employees and customers in a way that represented his strong Christian faith,” said Trijicon President and CEO Stephen Bindon. “By filing this lawsuit, we are simply trying to retain the culture and values we've always promoted here at Trijicon.”
On Friday, Bindon’s attorneys announced that the Justice Department had declined to fight the lawsuit in court, effectively granting Trijicon’s request for an exemption. The decision echoes an earlier move in which the DOJ asked a federal appellate court to dismiss its own case against Christian-owned publishing company Tyndale Press seeking to force them to comply with the mandate.
Attorney Matt Bowman of Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented Trijicon in the case, said the Obama administration’s decision to walk away from both the Tyndale and the Trijicon fights is evidence that it is getting nervous about defending the mandate in court.
In one of the highest-profile cases against the mandate, the 10th Circuit Court granted Christian-owned craft supply and home décor company Hobby Lobby a temporary injunction against the new rule, saying that the for-profit company had “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” meaning that the mandate stands a good chance of being overturned in court.
But other courts have sided with the Obama administration, arguing that corporations are not entitled to the same religious freedoms as the individuals who run them, and that company owners cannot impose their personally held beliefs on the business as a whole.
Bowman disagrees. "All Americans, including job creators, should be free to honor God and live according to their consciences wherever they are," the attorney said in a statement. "As the vast majority of courts have found so far, the abortion pill mandate is an excessive burden on the religious freedom that the Constitution recognizes and guarantees to all Americans."