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Third Missouri Company Wins Battle to Stop HHS Mandate

by Steven Ertelt | Jefferson City, MO | LifeNews.com | 1/4/13 12:58 PM

National

A third company in Missouri has won its battle to temporarily halt the pro-abortion HHS mandate in Obamacare against it, because its religious values compel it not to fund abortion-causing drugs for its employees.

The St. Louis Beacon reports that the  latest order was issued by St. Louis-based federal Judge David D. Noce for Sharpe Holdings Inc. of Bethel, Missouri.

Noce’s order barring enforcement of the contested ACA provisions is temporary, and is to remain in effect until a hearing is held January 14.

Sharpe Holdings explains in its suit that it objects to certain types of contraception – notably copper IUDs and so-called “morning-after’’ pills such as Plan B and Ella – which the corporation contends “constitute abortion on demand’’ and violate the beliefs of founder Charles N. Sharpe and at least two employees.

Sharpe Holdings describes itself as a corporation “that employs more than 50 full-time individuals in industries including farming, dairy, creamery and cheese-making…”

The various operations are part of Heartland Ministries, a religious community in northeast Missouri founded by Charles N. Sharpe, who also is the chief executive of Sharpe Holdings. The firm provides insurance to its employees through a self-insurance program.

Sharpe and two employees – Judi Diane Schaefer and Rita Joanne Wilson – filed suit on Dec. 20, contending that the copper IUDs and the post-sex contraceptives can prevent implantation of a fertilized human egg, and therefore amount to an early abortion.

According to court documents, Sharpe and his co-plaintiffs are singling out only that aspect of the IUD and morning-after pills, and are not challenging their other contraceptive capabilities.

Sharpe’s lawyer, Tim Belz, said in an interview that his client is “a very religious guy” but “not Catholic, so he doesn’t object to the contraceptive mandate as such.” Belz emphasized that the suit only cites objections to the copper IUD and the two types of pills taken after sexual intercourse to prevent pregnancy.

Sharpe “shouldn’t be forced to provide them via the self-insuranced plan,’’ Belz said. “It’s not his intent to keep employees from using these pills or devices,” but doesn’t want to play a role by providing insurance coverage.

“It’s a matter of conscience,’’ Belz added, stating that Sharpe Holdings does provide coverage for other types of contraception.

As LifeNews reported about a previous Missouri case, the U.S. District Court for Western Missouri issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting enforcement of the law against American Pulverizer Company of St. Louis. The firm is owned by Paul and Henry Griesedieck and members of the family are pro-life Christians who don’t want to be forced to pay for drugs for their employees that may cause abortions.

In their lawsuit, the Griesediecks contend that compliance with the Obamacare mandate would force them to violate their religious and moral beliefs.  In their lawsuit, the Griesediecks state that “it would be sinful for us to pay for services that have a significant risk of causing the death of embryonic lives.”

U.S. District Judge Richard Dorr ruled that the plaintiffs were likely to be able to prove that Obamacare “substantially  burdens their exercise of religion…Plaintiffs must either pay for a health plan that includes drugs and services to which they religiously object or incur fines.”

Judge Dorr noted that the federal government contends that the Griesedieck Companies are secular entities, and thus cannot “exercise religion.”  Judge Dorr responded by saying:  “There are many entities under which an individual can run a business…Does an individual’s choice to run his business as one of these entities strip that individual of his right to exercise his religious beliefs?”

The Griesediecks are represented by the American Center for Law and Justice.  ACLJ welcomed news of the injunction, saying,  “Paul and Henry Griesedieck face a stark and unavoidable choice: abandon their beliefs to stay in business, or abandon their businesses in order to stay true to their beliefs.  That is a choice that the federal  government, bound by the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, may not impose.”

In addition to concluding that under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act the mandate and its penalties would substantially burden plaintiffs’ free exercise rights, the court held that for 1st Amendment purposes, the mandate is not a neutral law of general applicability.

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The court wrote: “Plaintiffs have shown to the court’s satisfaction for the purposes of these initial proceedings, that the ACA mandate is not generally applicable because it does not apply to grandfathered health plans, religious employers, or employers with fewer than fifty employees.  Specifically, plaintiffs argue that the ACA mandate’s exemptions clearly prefer secular purposes over religious purposes and some religious purposes over other religious purposes.  Burdens cannot be selectively imposed only on conduct motivated by religious belief.”

The U.S. District court ruling comes on the heels of a major decision by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over federal legal proceedings in the state of Missouri.  The 8th Circuit issued a temporary injunction halting enforcement of the abortion drug mandate against O’Brien Industrial Holdings of St. Louis, citing religious freedom concerns as well.

The contraceptive and abortion drug edict was issued by Health and Human Services (HHS)  Secretary Kathleen  Sebelius.  It requires that every health insurance plan issued in the United States by an insurer must include coverage at no cost for all “contraceptives” approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration.  That includes abortifacient drugs such as Ella and Plan B, often referred to as “emergency contraceptives” or the “morning-after pill.”