The Obama administration is not content to force Obamacare on the nation but it’s also not going to relent when it comes to religious businesses, schools and organizations that want to opt out of complying with the HHS mandate, that compels them to pay for birth control and abortion-causing drugs.
The Obama administration is fighting the University of Notre Dame’s request for a reprieve from complying with the HHS mandate and filed papers on Tuesday with the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals opposing the Catholic university’s attempt to get out from under it.
The school, which is complying with the coverage mandate while fighting the policy in court, was denied a similar stay by the 7th Circuit late last year. Notre Dame re-filed its petition after the Supreme Court granted an injunction to the Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged last month.
The school said its case is nearly identical to the Little Sisters; the Justice Department said Tuesday that the facts are not the same.
Notre Dame “Employees and other beneficiaries are currently receiving contraceptive coverage,” Justice Department officials wrote in their brief (posted here).The school “offers no reason why this Court should disrupt the status quo by entering an injunction pending appeal while it is considering the merits of the appeal on a highly expedited basis.”
Notre Dame told students last month that it was following the contraception coverage requirement. The school notified its third party administrator, Meritain Health, that it wasn’t going to cover contraception so Meritain enacted the program. That use of the health plan was the Obama administration’s attempt to compromise with religious-affiliated organizations who don’t want to be a part of providing contraception.
Notre Dame’s case is expected to be argued before the 7th Circuit on Feb. 12.
Note Dame’s case is but one of dozens of cases filed against the HHS mandate. The Supreme Court has set the date for oral arguments for Hobby Lobby’s challenge to the Obama HHS mandate. The nation’s highest court will hear debate from attorneys representing the Christian-owned business and the Obama administration on Tuesday, March 25 at 10 a.m.
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take up Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., a landmark case addressing the Constitutionally guaranteed rights of business owners to operate their family companies without violating their deeply held religious convictions.
The Obama administration says it is confident it will prevail, saying, “We believe this requirement is lawful…and are confident the Supreme Court will agree.”
The Supreme Court is also taking the case of the Mennonite cabinet makers forced to pay for birth control and abortion-causing drugs.
In July, a federal court granted Hobby Lobby a preliminary injunction against the HHS abortion-drug mandate. The injunction prevented the Obama administration from enforcing the mandate against the Christian company, but the Obama administration appealed that ruling recently. The government’s appeal makes it highly likely that the Supreme Court will decide the issue in the upcoming term.
Hobby Lobby asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review its case and decide whether the Green family will be required to provide and pay for life-terminating drugs and devices in violation of their religious beliefs, according to an email from its attorneys to LifeNews.
“Hobby Lobby’s case raises important questions about who can enjoy religious freedom,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and lead lawyer for Hobby Lobby. “Right now, some courts recognize the rights of business owners like the Green family, and others do not. Religious freedom is too important to be left to chance. The Supreme Court should take this case and protect religious freedom for the Green family and Hobby Lobby.”
Duncan said last June the Christian-owned and operated business won a major victory before the en banc 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which rejected the government’s argument that the Green family and their family-owned businesses, Hobby Lobby and a Christian bookstore chain named Mardel, could not legally exercise religion.
The court further said the businesses were likely to win their challenge to the HHS mandate. Since then, courts in other parts of the country have ruled differently, setting up a conflict that only the Supreme Court can resolve.
The Court will consider the government’s petition and Hobby Lobby’s response next month. If the petition is granted, the case would be argued and decided before the end of the Court’s term in June.
“The United States government is taking the remarkable position that private individuals lose their religious freedom when they make a living,” said Duncan. “We’re confident that the Supreme Court will reject the government’s extreme position and hold that religious liberty is for everyone—including people who run a business.”
After the appeals court ruling, U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton issued a preliminary injunction and stayed the case until Oct. 1 to give the Obama administration time to appeal the decision.
In an opinion read from the bench, the court said, “There is a substantial public interest in ensuring that no individual or corporation has their legs cut out from under them while these difficult issues are resolved.”
Duncan says there are now 63 separate lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate. The Becket Fund led the charge against the unconstitutional HHS mandate. The Becket Fund currently represents: Hobby Lobby, Wheaton College, East Texas Baptist University, Houston Baptist University, Colorado Christian University, the Eternal Word Television Network, Ave Maria University, and Belmont Abbey College.
Hobby Lobby could have paid as much as $1.3 million each day in fines for refusing to pay for birth control or abortion-causing drugs under the mandate.
A December 2013 Rasmussen Reports poll shows Americans disagree with forcing companies like Hobby Lobby to obey the mandate.
“Half of voters now oppose a government requirement that employers provide health insurance with free contraceptives for their female employees,” Rasmussen reports.
The poll found: “The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 38% of Likely U.S. Voters still believe businesses should be required by law to provide health insurance that covers all government-approved contraceptives for women without co-payments or other charges to the patient.
Fifty-one percent (51%) disagree and say employers should not be required to provide health insurance with this type of coverage. Eleven percent (11%) are not sure.”
Another recent poll found 59 percent of Americans disagree with the mandate.