DENVER, July 27, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – A federal judge has given a Catholic family business a temporary injunction against the HHS mandate, exempting that family from providing no-cost contraception, sterilization, or abortifacient medicines in its employees’ health care plans.
The Newlands, a Catholic family, argued that the controversial provision of the Affordable Care Act violated their First Amendment rights by forcing them to purchase something that violates their consciences.
Attorneys for the Obama administration justified the mandate as part of the fight for sexual equality, arguing it was a necessary part of “improving the health of women and children…so that women who choose to do so can be part of the workforce on an equal playing field with men.”
But Senior Judge John L. Kane of the U.S. District of Colorado ruled on Friday that the government’s interests, which he called into question, “are countered, and indeed outweighed, by the public interest in the free exercise of religion.”
Judge Kane ruled that the plaintiffs could prevail on the grounds of the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act alone. That law states the government may not “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” unless it is to further “a compelling governmental interest” and it uses “the least restrictive means” possible to implement the law.
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Judge Kane, who was appointed to the federal bench by President Jimmy Carter in 1977, instructed the Obama administration it must “demonstrate that there are no feasible less-restrictive alternatives.”
“The government need not tilt at windmills; it need only refute alternatives proposed by Plaintiffs,” he wrote in his decision.
He declined to comment on the ADF’s constitutional arguments altogether.
The Newlands own Hercules Industries, a heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) manufacturer founded in 1962. The Denver-based HVAC company now employs 265 people, and their business practices reflect their Catholic beliefs.
“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,” said Alliance Defending Freedom (formerly “Alliance Defense Fund”) Legal Counsel Matt Bowman, who represented the family in Newland v. Sebelius.
It is significant that Hercules Industries is a private employer. This winter the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate narrowly voted down the Blunt Amendment, which would have respected the religious liberties of private business owners.
“Religious liberty goes far beyond merely the ‘freedom of worship’ – an alarmingly narrow term the Obama administration has adopted – to include peacefully living out your faith in every area of life,” said Ken Klukowski, director of the Family Research Council’s Center for Religious Liberty, in a statement e-mailed to LifeSiteNews.com. “For private business owners, that includes their right to showcase their faith through their business policies.”
Pro-family leaders are happy at the temporary victory but hope the infringement on religious freedom will be rolled back, by the court or by law after the November election.
“For now, the family will not be forced to violate their religious beliefs as demanded by President Obama’s abortion drug and contraceptive mandate,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. “While this ruling is a victory, it is limited to the Newland family, which underscores why Congress must act soon to protect all families.”