Presidential candidate Mitt Romney is elated that a federal court has issued the first victory for pro-life advocates taking on the controversial Obama HHS mandate that requires religious employers to pay for or refer employees for birth control and abortion-causing drugs.
Romney said he was pleased the court issued an injunction in one case to prevent the federal government from requiring businesses to cover contraception in their health plans.
“Freedom of conscience has won an important victory,” Romney said, saying the “injunction preventing the federal government from forcing one family business from having to choose between keeping its doors open and violating its faith is a step in the right direction.”
“But it is only a step, not the end of the struggle,” Romney cautioned. “We must ensure that the same freedom to live according to one’s faith is available to all Americans. If I am elected president, I will never cease fighting for freedom of conscience as it is guaranteed under the First Amendment.”
A federal court issued an order Friday that halts enforcement of the Obama administration’s abortion pill mandate against a Colorado family-owned business while an Alliance Defending Freedom lawsuit challenging the mandate continues in court. 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.
Still, leading pro-life advocates like Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life applauded the ruling.
“This decision marks the beginning of the end of the unjust and unconstitutional HHS mandate. Even though the Aug. 1 deadline for compliance is still in effect for organizations like Priests for Life, it’s good news that the suit filed by the owners of Hercules Industries has been successful in holding off, at least temporarily, this mandate that is so clearly a violation of the religious freedom guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and the laws of our country. This gives us reason to be optimistic as our own lawsuit progresses,” he told LifeNews.
He continued: “But no matter what happens, there is no way we will comply with a law that calls for us to violate our consciences by paying for contraception, abortifacient drugs and sterilization services.”
In Newland vs. Sebelius, the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado ruled on July 27 that the constitutional and statutory rights of the plaintiffs – siblings who own a heating and air conditioning company – would be harmed by enforcement of the HHS mandate. Judge John L. Kane also found that Hercules likely would prevail in its claim that the mandate is a violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
In his ruling, the judge noted that Hercules’ owners, William Newland, Paul Newland, James Newland, and Christine Ketterhagen, run their company according to Catholic principles and teachings, even when those religious, ethical and moral teachings impact their profits.
Fr. Pavone added: “Priests for Life is proud to be in the company of the Newlands and so many others who are not willing to set aside their deeply held beliefs, or their legal rights, even when threatened with economic catastrophe. We are confident that our lawsuit, filed Feb. 15, will protect us from the imposition of more than $1 million a year in fines. In addition to pressing on with our legal action, Priests for Life will also help once again to organize nationwide rallies for religious freedom, to take place on Saturday, October 20.”
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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Federal judges have dismissed two other lawsuits filed against the mandate.
Obama’s February 10 “accommodation” came under increasing fire on numerous fronts. A diverse coalition of over 300 scholars and religious leaders have called the maneuver “unacceptable,” because it still forces many religious organizations to violate their core religious beliefs. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has also denounced it.
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.