Fed judge halts mandate, sides with Catholics on contraception

A federal district court judge for the Eastern District of Michigan granted a preliminary injunction on Wednesday against the Department of Health and Human Services, directing that it not enforce a controversial contraception mandate.

The agency mandate, which required all employers — regardless of religious affiliation or conviction — to provide contraception, abortifacient drugs and sterilizations free to their employees, started a firestorm in the Catholic community and led Democrats to declare that the GOP is waging a “war on women.” It also led to an avalanche of lawsuits against the Department of Health and Human Services.

This case is notable in that the employer isn’t the Catholic Church, but a practicing Catholic of conviction.

Judge Robert H. Cleland wrote in his 29-page order that “the loss of First Amendment freedoms, for even minimal periods of time, unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury.”

The judge concluded: “The harm in delaying the implementation of a statute that may later be deemed constitutional must yield to the risk presented here of substantially infringing the sincere exercise of religious beliefs. The balance of harms tips strongly in Plaintiffs’ favor. A preliminary injunction is warranted.”

The plaintiffs were represented by the Thomas Moore Law Center, an Ann Arbor-based public interest law firm. Erin Mersino, the center’s lead counsel, said of the injunction: “The federal court has found that our clients have a likelihood of success and would be irreparably harmed by the unconstitutional overreaching of the HHS mandate. This is not only a victory for our clients, but for religious freedom.”

The order applies to the Department of Health and Human Services and favors Weingartz Supply Co. and its owner, Daniel Weingartz. The court denied injunctive relief to Legatus, a third plaintiff in the lawsuit and an organization of Catholic business owners and CEOs. The court ruled that Legatus lacked standing to sue at the present time because the mandate does not yet apply to the group.

The lawsuit, filed in May, was based on First Amendment religious freedom, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 and the Administrative Procedure Act.
Americans of faith know that religious freedom must prevail when balanced against an $8 supply of of birth control pills. Several groups have sprung up to combat the president’s policies with respect to abortion on demand and the HHS contraceptive mandate. One such group, CatholicVote, produced the following video.


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