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Appeals court rules against abortion mandate
Michael Foust, Baptist Press
February 01, 2013

Appeals court rules against abortion mandate

Appeals court rules against abortion mandate
Michael Foust, Baptist Press
February 01, 2013

CHICAGO – A federal appeals court has once again ruled against the Obama administration’s abortion/contraception mandate in a case that has strong implications for religious liberty.

A panel of the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday (Jan. 30) granted a preliminary injunction preventing the mandate from applying to Grote Industries, a for-profit company based in Madison, Ind., and owned by Catholics. The same panel in December issued an injunction preventing the mandate from applying to an Illinois-based business, Korte & Luitjohan Contractor, also owned by Catholics. Both rulings were 2-1.Appeals court rules against abortion mandate

The issue likely will end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

In addition to the Seventh Circuit, the Eighth Circuit and the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals have issued either rulings or orders against the mandate, which requires businesses and many religious organizations to purchase insurance plans covering contraceptives, including emergency contraceptives such as Plan B and ella that can kill an embryo after fertilization and even after implantation. Pro-lifers consider that action a chemical abortion.

The Seventh Circuit panel noted that the Grote family claims the mandate “compels them to materially cooperate in a grave moral wrong contrary to the teachings of their church.” Not following the mandate would result in “several financial penalties.”

“We conclude that the Grote Family and Grote Industries have established a reasonable likelihood of success” based on Grote’s claim that the mandate violates the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the panel ruled. “We also conclude that they will suffer irreparable harm absent an injunction pending appeal.”

Grote Industries is self-insured and its insurance plans did not cover contraceptives or abortion-causing drugs of any kind prior to the mandate, according to the ruling.

The judges consolidated the Grote and Korte cases.

Although the latest ruling involved a Catholic-owned business, evangelical-owned businesses and evangelical colleges also have won in federal court. There are 44 lawsuits involving non-profits and for-profits against the mandate, according to a tally by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. Of the 14 rulings thus far involving for-profits, 10 have gone against the mandate.

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is representing Grote.

“Americans have the God-given freedom to live and do business according to their faith,” ADF attorney Matt Bowman said in a statement. “Forcing employers to surrender their faith in order to earn a living is unprecedented, unnecessary, and unconstitutional. Honoring God is important every day, in all areas of life, including in our work. Freedom is not the government’s to give and take away when it pleases.”

Voting in the majority were Reagan nominee Joel M. Flaum and George W. Bush nominee Diane S. Sykes. George H.W. Bush nominee Ilana Rovner dissented.

The mandate was announced by the Department of Health and Human Services in August 2011 as part of the health care law championed by President Obama. Although the Supreme Court upheld the health care law last June, the justices’ ruling did not deal with the religious liberty issues surrounding the abortion/contraceptive mandate. That means the nation’s highest court could yet strike down what has been for religious groups and some business owners the most controversial part of the law.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.)

Appeals court rules against abortion mandate
Michael Foust, Baptist Press
November 30, 2012

Appeals court rules against abortion mandate

Appeals court rules against abortion mandate
Michael Foust, Baptist Press
November 30, 2012

ST. LOUIS – For the first time a federal appeals court has issued an order against the Obama administration’s abortion/contraceptive mandate.

The one-page order Nov. 28 from a three-judge Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals panel prevents the government from forcing a Missouri business – O’Brien Industrial Holdings, LLC – to cover contraceptives and abortion-causing drugs in its employee health care plans as the appeals process is completed. The panel’s temporary injunction came two months after a lower court tossed out the lawsuit.

It marks the fourth time this year that a federal court has issued an order or ruling against the mandate, which applies to businesses and religious organizations. There are about 40 cases nationwide seeking to overturn the mandate, which was implemented by the Department of Health and Human Services after President Obama signed the landmark health care bill into law.

The lawsuit by the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) says the mandate would force Frank O’Brien – the business owner – to violate his "religious beliefs and company policy." The mandate violates two federal laws as well as the First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom and free speech, the suit states. If the court does not intervene and O’Brien does not follow the mandate, he would face steep fines. O’Brien’s company and its subsidiaries employ about 85 people.

"O’Brien is a Catholic who has the religious duty to conduct himself and his business in a manner consistent with the Catholic faith," ACLJ stated in an appeal to the Eighth Circuit. "Pursuant to these beliefs, O’Brien has ‘established as company policy that [it] cannot pay for and provide coverage for contraceptives, sterilization, abortion or related education and counseling.’"

O’Brien’s business operates a number of businesses that explore, mine and process refractory and ceramic raw materials, according to ACLJ.

"The order sends a message that the religious beliefs of employers must be respected by the government," said ACLJ attorney Francis Manion. "We have argued from the beginning that employers like Frank O’Brien must be able to operate their business in a manner consistent with their moral values, not the values of the government. We look forward to this case moving forward and securing the constitutional rights of our client."

The ACLJ suit involves a private business, but many of the 40 suits against the mandate involve religious organizations. Tyndale House Publishers, which publishes Bibles and Christian books, won in federal court in November when a judge issued a temporary injunction preventing it from being forced to follow the mandate.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.)