Court: Obama Admin Can Force Catholic Company to Obey HHS Mandate

National   Steven Ertelt   Jul 15, 2013   |   4:34PM    Washington, DC

A federal judge in Michigan has issued a ruling forcing a Catholic company to obey the HHS mandate that compels Catholics to pay for birth control and drugs that may cause abortions.

Judge Charles Borman, a Clinton appointee, issued the ruling.

“The Court concludes that Plaintiffs have not demonstrated that they are likely to succeed on their claims because it appears more likely to the Court that Mersino Management, as a secular forprofit company, cannot “exercise” religion and cannot act as the alter ego of its owners in challenging the contraceptive mandate under RFRA [Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993],” he said. “Moreover, even assuming that Rodney and Karen Mersino have standing to challenge the contraceptive coverage mandate, as individuals, the Mersinos have not demonstrated a clear likelihood of success because the regulations do not substantially burden them in the exercise of their individual religious beliefs.”

From the ruling, according to Religion Clause blog:

Plaintiffs have not demonstrated that they are likely to succeed on their claims because … Mersino Managment, as a secular forprofit company, cannot “exercise” religion and cannot act as the alter ego of its owners in challenging the contraceptive mandate under RFRA….

Mersino Management’s Articles of Incorporation do not mention a religious purpose, it does not employ persons of only a particular religious faith, it does not purport to conduct religious services as part of its business model….. Mersino Management is in the business of selling water bypass systems for profit. The fact that its owners may hold deep religious beliefs, and that the mission statement of the company includes a statement of fealty to God, does not convert this secular, for profit company into a religious organization capable of exercising religion. ….

Nor can Karen and Rodney Mersino impute their own religious beliefs to their corporation so that the corporation can act as their alter ego and assert those rights on behalf of the Mersinos….

Plaintiffs maintain that their sincerely held religious beliefs preclude them from indirectly providing the means for their employees to make the independent decision to purchase contraceptives…. Plaintiffs argue that courts that have concluded that any burden imposed on them by the regulations is too attenuated to be substantial are in fact questioning this fundamental sincerely held belief, which all parties agree courts are precluded from doing under a RFRA analysis. Plaintiffs claim this gives them a “silver bullet,” that by alleging sincerity, the discussion is over. Not so! As many courts have noted, permitting Plaintiffs to determine what constitutes “substantial” and then insulating this proposition from challenge, impermissibly converts the “substantial burden” requirement to an “any burden” showing.

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The ruling follows a pro-life victory with another court deciding that Christian-run business Hobby Lobby does not have to pay fines under the HHS mandate while its legal challenges continue.