The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has blocked enforcement of ObamaCare’s controversial contraception mandate in the case of two Catholic business owners.
Cyril and Jane Korte, who own and operate Korte & Luitjohanm Contractors, Inc., and the Grote Family, which owns and manages Grote Industries, Inc., argued that the law forces them to violate their deeply held religious beliefs by forcing them to provide full, copay-free insurance coverage for sterilization, contraceptives and abortion-causing drugs like the “morning after pill.”
The decision, handed down late last week, said that the birth control mandate places a “substantial burden” on the religious rights of Catholic business owners, and that such business owners have the legal right to sue the government.
“Complying with the mandate requires [Catholic business owners] to purchase the required contraception coverage (or self-insure for these services), albeit as agents of their companies and using corporate funds,” the judges wrote. “But this conflicts with their religious commitments; as they understand the requirements of their faith, they must refrain from putting this coverage in place because doing so would make them complicit in the morally wrongful act of another.”
“Compelling a person to do an act his religion forbids, or punishing him for an act his religion requires, are paradigmatic religious liberty injuries sufficient to invoke the jurisdiction of the federal courts,” the judges ruled.
“The plaintiffs are not asking the government to pay for anything,” the judges said. “They are asking for relief from a regulatory mandate that coerces them to pay for something – insurance coverage for contraception – on the sincere conviction that doing so violates their religion. They have made a strong case that [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act]entitles them to that relief.”
The Seventh Circuit’s strongly-worded ruling went even further in its defense of employers’ religious freedoms than the previous ruling by the Tenth Circuit granting an injunction to Christian-owned craft store chain Hobby Lobby on similar grounds. But it directly contradicts rulings made in the Third and Sixth Circuits, in which tge judges ruled that religiously observant business owners lacked standing to sue over the mandate because the rules apply to corporations, not the people who own them.
The conflicting decisions between the various appeals courts have set the stage for a Supreme Court battle over the controversial birth control mandate. The high court has until December 2 to decide whether to take the issue on. If they choose to do so, arguments will be heard sometime during the first half of 2014.