The founder of Dominos Pizza won his bid for an emergency order to prevent enforcement of the mandate while the lawsuit it filed against the Obama administration over the HHS mandate that forces religious employers to purchase drugs that may cause abortions for their employees continues.
Tom Monaghan calls requiring businesses, schools and other religious places to pay for such drugs a “gravely immoral” practice and filed suit earlier this month in federal court for Domino’s Farms, a business development complex he owns.
Monaghan says he currently offers his employees health insurance that does not pay for abortions or birth control drugs that may cause early abortions and he has asked a judge to strike down the mandate, saying it violates his First Amendment religious rights.
On Friday, the Thomas More Law Center, a pro-life legal group, filed an Emergency Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order on behalf of Monaghan to stop enforcement of the HHS Mandate in order to prevent immediate irreparable injury to his fundamental rights.
“The HHS Mandate requires employers to pay for health insurance that covers abortion-inducing drugs, contraception and sterilization under threat of draconian fines. It also requires employers to educate their employees about use of those drugs,” the group said. “Tom Monaghan is a staunch pro-life advocate and Catholic philanthropist. His religious beliefs prohibit him from paying for abortion-inducing drugs, contraception and sterilization.”
U.S. District Judge Lawrence Zatkoff ruled in favor of the request, saying the property management company doesn’t have to immediately implement the HHS mandate. Zatkoff granted Monaghan’s emergency motion for a temporary restraining order until he issues his ruling in the larger case.
“Plaintiff has shown that abiding by the mandate will substantially burden his exercise of religion,” wrote Zatkoff, a Reagan appointee. “The Government has failed to satisfy its burden of showing that its actions were narrowly tailored to serve a compelling interest.”
Pro-life attorney Erin Mersino asked Federal District Court Judge Lawrence P. Zatkoff to hear the Motion “at the earliest possible time” because the HHS Mandate takes effect against Monaghan and his Domino’s Farms Corporation on January 1, 2013. If granted, the TRO would permit Monaghan to continue to provide insurance for his employees that does not violate his constitutionally and statutorily granted rights to free exercise of religion, free speech, and free association.
In a strongly worded brief, Mersino accuses the Obama administration of blatant violations of Monaghan’s constitutional rights to the Free Exercise of Religion and Free Speech guaranteed by the Constitution as well as a violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.
Earlier in the year, the Thomas More Law Center filed a lawsuit on behalf of Michigan-businessman Daniel Weingartz and his Weingartz Supply Company, as well as the staff of Legatus, an organization of top Catholic business owners and CEOs. TMLC was successful in obtaining a Preliminary Injunction banning the Government from enforcing the Mandate against Weingartz and his company. Legatus also remains free of the Mandate’s requirements under the Mandate’s safe harbor provision.
Both lawsuits challenge the constitutionality of the HHS Mandate under the First Amendment rights to the Free Exercise of Religion, Free Speech and the Establishment Clause. Both lawsuits also claim that the HHS Mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.
Attorney Wesley Smith, who is pro-life, commented on the lawsuit.
“Monaghan, who already offers employees health insurance that doesn’t cover contraception, is a very devout Catholic. How devout? He founded Ave Maria University and Ave Maria Law School–both orthodox Catholic institutions of higher learning. (Neither are parties to this suit, which involves Monaghan’s business interests.) He takes his faith very seriously and clearly is more than willing to put his considerable money where his mouth is,” he said.
“This isn’t about birth control, but the power of the government to bulldoze freedom of religion down to a mere freedom of worship. Regardless of one’s faith or lack thereof, all who believe in American liberty should wish Monaghan well,” he said.
In another prominent case, a federal court denied a request to temporarily stop enforcement of the abortion pill mandate against the Christian-operated business Hobby Lobby. It has announced it will take its HHS mandate lawsuit to the Supreme Court.
Earlier, a different federal appeals court reinstated two of the top legal challenges to the mandate. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals handed Wheaton College and Belmont Abbey College a major victory in their challenges to the HHS mandate. Previously, two lower courts had dismissed their lawsuits as premature because the Obama administration is expected to revise the mandate next year. However, the appellate court reinstated those cases.
Recently, a federal judge in New York became the first to rule against the government on this issue holding that the “safe harbor” and promised “accommodation” were inadequate to protect religious organizations from suffering harm. The court remarked that, “There is no ‘Trust us changes are coming’ clause in the Constitution.”
The most recent poll shows a plurality of Americans oppose the mandate.
The Supreme Court has ordered a federal appeals court to take a new look at the controversial Obamacare law and whether it unconstitutionally forces taxpayers to fund abortions and birth control, violating religious freedoms. The high court is ultimately expected to resolve the debate over the HHS mandate.
Before Thanksgiving, a federal district court judge in Chicago issued a preliminary injunction requested by the religious publisher Tyndale House in its challenge to the mandate. HHS has denied Tyndale House’s request for an exemption, saying that it didn’t meet the government’s definition of a “religious employer” because it operates as a “for-profit” business.
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But while Tyndale House won an important victory, at the same time the owners of Hobby Lobby, an arts and crafts store chain, were losing their challenge to the HHS mandate in Oklahoma City. Like other challengers, they said that paying for such coverage violated their religious beliefs.
There are now 40 separate lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate, which is a regulation under the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”) including suits from Hobby Lobby, Wheaton College, East Texas Baptist University, Houston Baptist University, Belmont Abbey College, Colorado Christian University, the Eternal Word Television Network, and Ave Maria University.