Kirsten Andersen

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Obama Administration appeals Hobby Lobby/HHS mandate case to the Supreme Court

Kirsten Andersen
Kirsten Andersen

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 20, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Obama Administration isn’t giving up the fight to force the Christian-owned Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores to abide by the controversial HHS contraception mandate.

On Wednesday the administration asked the Supreme Court to overturn a federal appeals court ruling granting Hobby Lobby an exemption from the mandate, which requires employers to provide co-pay-free coverage for contraceptives, sterilization and abortion-causing drugs for all females of childbearing age enrolled in their company’s health plan. 

More than 60 company owners have sued the Obama Administration over the directive, arguing that forcing them to pay for procedures and drugs their faiths hold to be immoral violates their constitutionally-protected religious freedom.

In the Hobby Lobby case, the company’s owners sought an exemption from the mandate because it requires coverage for so-called ‘emergency contraception,’ which works at least some of the time by making the uterus inhospitable to an already-fertilized embryo, inducing early abortion – something that goes against the owners’ Christian faith.  Initially, a lower court rejected their case, but in July, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned their decision and Hobby Lobby was granted an injunction.

In its decision, the Tenth Circuit asserted that Hobby Lobby 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.”

But on Wednesday, just five days before the court-ordered deadline, the Obama Administration asked the Supreme Court to overturn the Tenth Circuit’s ruling, and accused Hobby Lobby’s owners of trying to use their religious freedom as a “sword” to cut their employees off from the “benefits and protections” offered by the contraceptive mandate. 

The government’s attorneys argued that because Hobby Lobby is a for-profit corporation, it is not entitled to the same religious rights as an individual or a church.  It’s an argument that has met with success in two other similar cases this year in both the Third and Sixth Circuit Courts, decisions which the government cited heavily in its petition.

“The United States government is taking the remarkable position that private individuals lose their religious freedom when they make a living,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and lead lawyer for Hobby Lobby.   Added Duncan, “We’re confident that the Supreme Court will reject the government’s extreme position and hold that religious liberty is for everyone—including people who run a business.”

But the Obama Administration’s lawyers argued in their court filing that even if religious liberty was found to apply to for-profit corporations, in the case of the HHS mandate, the government’s “compelling interest” in making contraceptives freely available to every woman supersedes the company’s right not to pay for them.

“[The Religious Freedom Restoration Act] provides that the federal government ‘shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion’ unless application of that burden is ‘the least restrictive means of furthering [a] compelling governmental interest,” wrote the government lawyers. 

“[T]he contraceptive-coverage requirement,” they asserted, “is the least restrictive means of advancing compelling governmental interests.”

According to the government’s attorneys, the HHS mandate serves a compelling governmental interest because when it comes to the government’s plan to improve Americans’ health, “increased access to FDA-approved contraceptive services in particular is a key component,” and when women have to pay out-of-pocket for contraceptives, it makes them less likely to use them. 

Although the World Health Organization lists hormonal contraception as a Class 1 cancer-causing agent, the U.S. government asserts that contraceptives “improve health by decreas[ing] the likelihood or delay[ing] the onset of a targeted disease or condition,” in this case, pregnancy.  Wrote the government’s lawyers, “a lack of contraceptive use has proven in many cases to have negative health consequences for both women and children.”

The government appeared to issue a veiled threat to both the Court and future religious objectors should the decision not go its way, telling the Court that “It would be perverse to hold that providing a targeted religious exemption [such as the one currently offered to some churches and religious charities] eliminates the government’s compelling interest in the underlying regulation, thus effectively extending the same exemption … to anyone else who wants it.”

“Such a reading of [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act],” the government’s lawyers warned, “would discourage the government from accommodating religion, the exact opposite of what Congress intended in enacting RFRA.” (Emphasis theirs.)

The high court has six weeks to consider the government’s petition. If the justices agree to hear the Hobby Lobby case, it will be argued and decided before the end of the Court’s term in June 2014.

The Hobby Lobby case is one of two cases dealing with the HHS mandate that were submitted to the Court Wednesday.  The other is Conestoga vs. Sebelius, one of the two cases cited by the government in its filing in which the Third Circuit ruled against the Christian owners of a custom cabinet manufacturing company, forcing them to comply with the contraceptive mandate.  The company owners have requested that in light of the circuit courts’ differing opinions, the Supreme Court review their case, as well. 


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Quebec groups launch court challenge to euthanasia bill

LifeSiteNews staff
By LifeSiteNews staff

As announced when the Quebec legislature adopted Bill 52, An Act respecting end-of-life care, the citizen movement Living with Dignity and the Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia, representing together over 650 physicians and 17,000 citizens, filed a lawsuit before the Superior Court of Quebec in the District of Montreal on Thursday.

The lawsuit requests that the Court declare invalid all the provisions of the Act that deal with “medical aid in dying”, a term the groups say is a euphemism for euthanasia. This Act not only allows certain patients to demand that a physician provoke their death, but also grants physicians the right to cause the death of these patients by the administration of a lethal substance.

The two organizations are challenging the constitutionality of those provisions in the Act which are aimed at decriminalizing euthanasia under the euphemism “medical aid in dying”. Euthanasia constitutes a culpable homicide under Canada’s Criminal Code, and the organizations maintain that it is at the core of the exclusive federal legislative power in relation to criminal law and Quebec therefore does not have the power to adopt these provisions.

The organizations also say the impugned provisions unjustifiably infringe the rights to life and to security of patients guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. They further infringe the right to the safeguard of the dignity of the person, which is also protected by the Quebec Charter.

In view of the gravity of the situation and the urgent need to protect all vulnerable persons in Quebec, they are requesting an accelerated management of the case in order to obtain a judgment before the Act is expected to come into force on December 10, 2015.


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Colorado baker appeals gvmt ‘re-education’ order

LifeSiteNews staff
By LifeSiteNews staff

A Colorado cake artist who declined to use his creative talents to promote and endorse a same-sex ceremony appealed a May 30 order from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission to the Colorado Court of Appeals Wednesday.

The commission’s order requires cake artist Jack Phillips and his staff at Masterpiece Cakeshop to create cakes for same-sex celebrations, forces him to re-educate his staff that Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act means that artists must endorse all views, compels him to implement new policies to comply with the commission’s order, and requires him to file quarterly “compliance” reports for two years. The reports must include the number of patrons declined a wedding cake or any other product and state the reason for doing so to ensure he has fully eliminated his religious beliefs from his business.

“Americans should not be forced by the government – or by another citizen – to endorse or promote ideas with which they disagree,” said the cake artist’s lead counsel Nicolle Martin, an attorney allied with Alliance Defending Freedom. “This is not about the people who asked for a cake; it’s about the message the cake communicates. Just as Jack doesn’t create baked works of art for other events with which he disagrees, he doesn’t create cake art for same-sex ceremonies regardless of who walks in the door to place the order.”

“In America, we don’t force artists to create expression that is contrary to their convictions,” added Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “A paint artist who identifies as homosexual shouldn’t be intimidated into creating a painting that celebrates one-man, one-woman marriage. A pro-life photographer shouldn’t be forced to work a pro-abortion rally. And Christian cake artists shouldn’t be punished for declining to participate in a same-sex ceremony or promote its message.”

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In July 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins asked Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, to make a wedding cake to celebrate their same-sex ceremony. In an exchange lasting about 30 seconds, Phillips politely declined, explaining that he would gladly make them any other type of baked item they wanted but that he could not make a cake promoting a same-sex ceremony because of his faith. Craig and Mullins, now represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, immediately left the shop and later filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division. The case now goes to the Colorado Court of Appeals as Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Craig.

“Jack, and other cake artists like him – such as those seen on TV shows like ‘Ace of Cakes’ and ‘Cake Boss’ – prepare unique creations that are inherently expressive,” Tedesco explained. “Jack invests many hours in the wedding cake creative process, which includes meeting the clients, designing and sketching the cake, and then baking, sculpting, and decorating it. The ACLU calls Jack a mere ‘retail service provider,’ but, in fact, he is an artist who uses his talents and abilities to create expression that the First Amendment fully protects."

Celebrity cake artists have written publicly about their art and the significant expressive work that goes into the artistic design process for wedding cakes.


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Prisoner of conscience Mary Wagner appeals her conviction

Tony Gosgnach
By Tony Gosgnach

TORONTO -- As promised, Mary Wagner has, through her counsel Dr. Charles Lugosi, filed a formal notice of appeal on numerous points regarding her recent, almost two-year-long court case that ended on June 12.

Justice Fergus O’Donnell of the Ontario Court of Justice rejected every application made by the defence – including for access to abortion center records, public funding, standing for a constitutional challenge and for expert witnesses to be heard – before he found Wagner guilty and sentenced her to five months in jail on a charge of mischief and four months on four counts of failing to comply with probation orders.

He further levied two years of probation, with terms that she stay at least 100 metres away from any abortion site. However, because Wagner had spent a greater time in jail than the sentence, she was freed immediately. She had been arrested at the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site on Lawrence Avenue West in Toronto on August 15, 2012 after attempting to speak to abortion-bound women there. She then spent the duration of the trial in prison for refusing to sign bail conditions requiring her to stay away from abortion sites.

Wagner is using the matter as a test case to challenge the current definition of a human being in Canadian law – that is, that a human being is legally recognized as such only after he or she has fully emerged from the birth canal in a breathing state.

Wagner’s notice states the appeal is regarding:

  • Her conviction and sentence on a single count of mischief (interference with property),
  • Her conviction and sentence on four counts of breach of probation,
  • The order denying public funding,
  • The order denying the disclosure of third-party records,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts on the applicant’s constitutional challenge concerning the constitutional validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts concerning the construction of Section 37 of the Criminal Code,
  • The probation order denying Wagner her constitutional rights to freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion on all public sidewalks and public areas within 100 metres of places where abortions are committed,
  • And each conviction and sentence and all orders and rulings made by O’Donnell.

In the notice of appeal, Lugosi cites numerous points on which O’Donnell erred:

  • He denied Wagner her constitutional right to make full answer and defence.
  • He denied Wagner her right to rely on Section 37 of the Criminal Code, which permits “everyone” to come to the third-party defence and rescue of any human being (in this case, the preborn) facing imminent assault.
  • He decided the factual basis of Wagner’s constitutional arguments was a waste of the court’s time and that no purpose would have been served by having an evidentiary hearing on her Charter application because, in the current state of Canadian law, it had no possibility of success.
  • He misapplied case law and prejudged the case, “giving rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias and impeding the legal evolution of the law to adapt to new circumstances, knowledge and changed societal values and morals.”
  • He accepted the Crown’s submission that it is beyond the jurisdiction of the courts to question the jurisdiction of Parliament legally to define “human being” in any manner Parliament sees fit.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code is not beyond the powers of Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code does not violate the Preamble to, as well as Sections 7, 11(d), 15 and 26, of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  • He denied Wagner standing to raise a constitutional challenge to the validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code.
  • He ruled that Section 223 of the Criminal Code applied generally throughout the entire Criminal Code and used it to deny unborn human beings the benefit of equal protection as born human beings under Section 37 of the Criminal Code.
  • He denied the production and disclosure of third-party records in the possession of the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site, although the records were required to prove Wagner was justified in using reasonable force in the form of oral and written words to try to persuade pregnant mothers from killing their unborn children by abortion.
  • He denied Wagner the defence of Section 37 of the Criminal Code by ruling unborn children did not come within the scope of human beings eligible to be protected by a third party.
  • He ruled Wagner did not come within the scope of Section 37 because she was found to be non-violent (in that she did not use physical force).
  • He ruled the unborn children Wagner was trying to rescue were not under her protection.
  • He denied Wagner the common-law defences of necessity and the rescue of third parties in need of protection.
  • He denied Wagner public funding to make full answer and defence for a constitutional test case of great public importance and national significance.
  • He imposed an unconstitutional sentence upon Wagner by, in effect, imposing an injunction as a condition of probation, contrary to her constitutional rights of free speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.

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Among the orders Lugosi is seeking are:

  • That an appeal be allowed against conviction on all counts and that a verdict of acquittal be entered on all counts,
  • That Section 223 of the Criminal Code be found unconstitutional  and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, as well as the unwritten constitution of Canada,
  • That the sentence be declared unconstitutional and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and the unwritten constitution of Canada or that a new trial be conducted, with Wagner permitted to make full answer and defence, be given standing to make a constitutional attack on Section 223 of the Criminal Code, with the admission of expert witnesses,
  • That the Women’s Care Clinic abortion site be made to produce third-party records pertaining to patients seen on August 15, 2012 (when Wagner entered the site),
  • And that there be public funding for two defence counsels at any retrial and for any appeal related to the case.

No date has yet been established for a decision on the appeal or hearings.

A defence fund for Wagner’s case is still raising money. Details on how to contribute to it can be found here.


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