Lawyers representing a Catholic businessmen’s group are seeking a separate injunction against the HHS mandate in federal court on Wednesday, days before the controversial rule takes effect Aug. 1.
The Ann Arbor-based Thomas More Law Center filed the injunction as part of its lawsuit on behalf of Legatus, the largest Catholic business leader organization in the U.S., the Ann Arbor-based Weingartz Supply Company and its president Daniel Weingartz, a Legatus member.
“Without the court's intervention, the HHS mandate effectively penalizes their free exercise of religion,” Thomas More Law Center attorney Erin Mersino said July 26.
She said the injunction is needed to prevent “immediate injury to our clients’ right of conscience.”
The Department of Health and Human Services mandate requires all employers with 50 or more employees to provide insurance coverage including sterilization, contraception and abortion-causing drugs.
Its narrow religious exemption does not include many Catholic health systems, charities and colleges, despite Catholic objections to covering the procedures and drugs.
Catholic employers who run secular businesses have even fewer protections in the mandate regulations.
The motion for an emergency injunction was filed before Judge Robert H. Cleland of the Eastern District of Maryland. It says the mandate violates rights guaranteed by the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.
Mersino told CNA July 27 that the mandate would have an “enormous impact” on Weingartz and his company.
“If you look at the 170 employees that he has, and at minimum the $2,000 fine (per employee) he faces annually, he’s looking at in excess of over $300,000 a year in fines for non-compliance.”
She expects a ruling on the injunction request before Aug. 1.
A federal judge in Colorado on July 27 issued an injunction against the mandate in response to a lawsuit filed on behalf of the Hercules Industries. That injunction only protects the Colorado-based company and its owners.
Mersino said the attorneys’ arguments on behalf of Weingartz and his company are similar to those made in the Colorado case.
“Our clients are similarly situated. They are both for-profit business owners who are Catholic. They oppose the mandate for the same reasons.”
She said if the judge follows the arguments, he will rule the same way but there is “no guarantee” he will.
Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, criticized the federal rule.
“The Obama administration deliberately declared war on the Catholic Church by promulgating the HHS mandate,” he said July 26. “And contrary to what they want you to believe, this case is not about contraception. It is about the religious freedom of Christians, in this case Catholics, to peaceably practice their faith free from government coercion.”
He warned that if the government succeeds, “the religious freedom of all Christians is in danger.”
Tags: Contraception mandate