The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals — the second most influential bench in the land behind the Supreme Court — ruled 2-1 in favor of business owners who are fighting the requirement that they provide their employees with health insurance that covers birth control.
Requiring companies to cover their employees’ contraception, the court ruled, is unduly burdensome for business owners who oppose birth control on religious grounds, even if they are not purchasing the contraception directly.
Legal analysts expect the Supreme Court to ultimately pick up an appeal on the birth-control requirement and make a final decision on its constitutionality. In the meantime, Republicans in Congress have pushed for a conscience clause that would allow employers to opt out of providing contraception coverage for moral or religious reasons.
The split ruling against the government on Friday was the latest in a string of court cases challenging the healthcare law’s mandate. Friday’s ruling centered on two Catholic brothers, Francis and Philip Gilardi, who own a 400-person produce company based in Ohio.
"They can either abide by the sacred tenets of their faith, pay a penalty of over $14 million, and cripple the companies they have spent a lifetime building, or they become complicit in a grave moral wrong," Brown wrote.
The Obama administration said that the requirement is necessary to protect women’s right to decide whether and when to have children.
Matt Bowman, Senior Legal Counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom– “Two new cases have vindicated religious freedom for people in their everyday professions, and have upped the ante for another Supreme Court showdown, in 2014, with the Obama administration over religious liberty and Obamacare. The U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Seventh and D.C. Circuits, in Chicago and Washington, respectively, both ruled in the last few days that when people of faith engage in a business they do in fact possess the freedom to exercise their religious beliefs when the government commands them to violate those beliefs. The Gilardi family out of Ohio, the Korte family of Illinois and the Grote family in Indiana all run businesses and seek to do so consistent with their Christian faith. They object to the Obamacare mandate to provide abortifacient drugs, contraception and sterilization in their employee health plans.
“On November 9, the Seventh Circuit declared that the Korte and Grote families and their businesses can assert rights against the federal government under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA), which ‘operates as a kind of utility remedy for the inevitable clashes between religious freedom and the realities of the modern welfare state, which regulates pervasively and touches nearly every aspect of social and economic life.’
“The court went on to declare that the abortifacient/contraception mandate is not justified against religious objectors, because the government merely asserts that free contraception promotes ‘health’ and ‘equality.’ Rebutting the government’s assertion of a so-called ‘right’ to such things as abortion and contraception, the court declared that ‘the government has failed to demonstrate how such a right...can extend to the compelled subsidization of a woman’s procreative practices’ by private citizens.
“On November 26, the Supreme Court will look at three petitions from businesses that have filed similar challenges to the abortifacient/contraception mandate, and it could decide that afternoon to set one or more of those cases for argument in the spring of 2014.”
Court Cases summary
HHS contraception mandate vs. the Religious Freedom Restoration Act
Urge your senators to support conscience rights - S.1204
Urge your Rep. to protect conscience rights - HR 940