ANN ARBOR, MI, November 1, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – A federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction stopping the enforcement of the Obama administration’s HHS birth control mandate against a Michigan business and its Catholic owner.
Judge Robert H. Cleland of the Eastern District of Michigan issued the opinion on behalf of Weingartz Supply Company and owner Daniel Weingartz, who had complained that the requirement that they offer birth control, abortifacient drugs, and sterilizations free-of-charge to their employees violated religious freedoms.
Judge Cleland emphasized that “[t]he loss of First Amendment freedoms, for even minimal periods of time, unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury.”
He concluded, “The harm in delaying the implementation of a statute that may later be deemed constitutional must yield to the risk presented here of substantially infringing the sincere exercise of religious beliefs. The balance of harms tips strongly in Plaintiffs’ favor. A preliminary injunction is warranted.”
Cleland is the second judge to come down against the HHS mandate. In July, U.S. District Judge John Kane ruled in favor of Hercules Industries Inc, temporarily blocking the government from enforcing the mandate.
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The motion on behalf of Weingartz was brought by the Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
“The federal court has found that our clients have a likelihood of success and would be irreparably harmed by the unconstitutional overreaching of the HHS mandate,” said Erin Mersino, TMLC’s lead counsel on the case who presented the oral arguments. “This is not only a victory for our clients, but for religious freedom.”
The lawsuit was filed on May 6, 2012, on behalf of Legatus, the nation’s largest organization of top Catholic business owners and CEOs, and Weingartz.
The suit named top Obama administration officials responsible for implementation of the HHS mandate as defendants, including Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, and Hilda Solis, Secretary of the Department of Labor.
Judge Cleland reiterated in his written opinion what he told both sides at the beginning of the oral augments on September 28th – that whatever ruling he grants, the case will continue to be litigated.
Judge Cleland denied the motion for preliminary injunction on behalf of Legatus, saying that he is not persuaded that Legatus has standing at this time. The Government has represented that the HHS mandate regulations are being amended to accommodate the religious liberty concerns of non-profit organizations like Legatus.
However, the judge noted that if it turns out that the government does apply the mandate to Legatus, the organization can again file a complaint with the court.
In addition to the freedom of religion claims, TMLC’s lawsuit claims that the HHS mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 and the Administrative Procedure Act.