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Obama Admin Trying to Force Company to Comply With HHS Mandate

by Steven Ertelt | Washington, DC | LifeNews.com | 1/18/13 7:15 PM

National

The Obama Administration has filed an opening brief in Newland v. Sebelius, a case a company filed against the federal government seeking to opt out of the controversial HHS mandate.

The Obama brief has federal government arguing that mandating free abortion pills and birth control for private employees is a “compelling government interest” and that forcing Hercules Industries and its owners to provide such coverage against their religious beliefs “does not impose a substantial burden on any exercise of religion by Hercules Industries or the Newlands”:

The Alliance Defending Freedom pro-life legal group is handling the case for the company.

“Every American, including family business owners, should be free to live and do business according to their faith,” says ADF lead counsel Matt Bowman.

Bowman told LifeNews: “The cost of religious freedom for this family could be millions of dollars per year in fines that would cripple their business and potentially destroy jobs if the administration ultimately has its way. In appealing the district court’s order that halted the mandate against Hercules, the administration sent a clear message that it wants to force families to abandon their faith in order to earn a living. That’s the opposite of religious freedom.”

The administration appealed a July ruling that halted enforcement of the Obama administration’s abortion pill mandate against the Colorado family-owned business.

The mandate has generated massive opposition from pro-life groups because it forces employers, regardless of their religious or moral convictions, to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception under threat of heavy penalties.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys obtained the first-ever order against the mandate on behalf of Hercules Industries and the Catholic family that owns it. The administration opposed the order, arguing, contrary to the U.S. Constitution, that people of faith forfeit their religious liberty once they engage in business.

The decision only applies to the company, and the court emphasized the ruling did not apply nationwide.

Since Hercules Industries would have been required to begin offering the new coverage when its self-insured plan renewed on November 1, Alliance Defending Freedom has requested a preliminary injunction that could prevent the government from enforcing the mandate against the company by August 1, the date when the company would need to begin the process of making changes to its plan.

As is the case with many religious groups or employers, the mandate could subject the Newlands to millions of dollars in fines per year if they don’t abide by its requirements.

The Colorado House of Representatives honored Hercules Industries for its many contributions to the community and its employees after the city and county of Denver backed out of a similar proclamation because of the business’s success in court.

The pro-abortion ACLU has criticized the ruling, saying, “This is not religious freedom, this is discrimination. Real religious liberty gives everyone the right to make their own decisions about their own health, including whether and when to use birth control. It doesn’t give anyone the right to impose their beliefs on others.”

But the The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, also a pro-life legal group involved in the case, says the decision could spell the eventual overturning of the mandate itself.

“Judge Kane’s ruling today in favor of a religious for-profit plaintiff challenging the coercive HHS mandate got the law right. Religious liberty rights don’t stop at the store-front door,” said Hannah Smith, Senior Counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. “This decision portends the demise of the current Administration’s attempts to drive religious activity from the public square and confine it within the four walls of a church.”

In his order, Senior Judge John L. Kane of the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado said that the government’s arguments “are countered, and indeed outweighed, by the public interest in the free exercise of religion. As the Tenth Circuit has noted, ‘there is a strong public interest in the free exercise of religion even where that interest may conflict with [another statutory scheme]….’ Accordingly, the public interest favors entry of an injunction in this case.”

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Bowman said Judge Kane explained that the government’s “harm pales in comparison to the possible infringement upon Plaintiffs’ constitutional and statutory rights.”

According to the brief Alliance Defending Freedom filed along with the motion requesting the injunction, “the mandate disregards religious conscience rights that are enshrined in federal statutory and constitutional law.” It also violates the First Amendment “due to its massive inapplicability and its discrimination among religions,” the brief explains.

The panel that put together the mandate has been condemned for only having pro-abortion members even though polling shows Americans are opposed to the mandate.