Faith Under Fire: The State Fist Tightens

Sotomayor Says No to Hobby Lobby

On the day after Christmas, empathetic Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor rejected a request from family-owned Hobby Lobby and a sister company to issue a temporary injunction exempting the companies from the new HHS the requirement to include “morning after” abortion drugs in its employee health care plans.

The Green family, devout Christians, said it would violate their religious beliefs to pay for abortions. The law goes into effect Jan. 1, and Hobby Lobby said it would face $1.3 million in fines for not complying.

The Greens asked to be exempted from the mandate while their case is  in court. On Dec. 20, the 10th Circuit Court ruled that the requirement did not violate the owner’s religious freedom because it posed an “indirect and attenuated” burden, not an “undue burden.” The Greens, represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, appealed the case and applied for relief from the Supreme Court.

Justice Sotomayor ruled that in order for the Supreme Court to grant an injunction that has been denied by lower courts, “the legal rights at issue… [must be] indisputably clear.” There is no case precedence for a private, for-profit company to sue the government on free-exercise grounds, she said, and courts have ruled in conflicting ways over current cases based on the same rule, so the Green family’s rights are not “indisputably clear.” Moreover, she said, while the Greens claim they will suffer irreparable harm from penalties, that outcome is not certain because their original suit is still going on.

Read Justice Sotomayor’s ruling here:

http://www.becketfund.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/12A644.pdf

Priests for Life Granted Exemption

Just before Christmas, Priests for Life won a temporary exemption from the HHS mandate requiring almost all employers to provide health insurance that covers birth control drugs and devices, voluntary sterilization, and “morning after” abortion-causing drugs.

After the organization’s lawyers (Priests for Life is represented by the American Freedom Law Center) presented initial arguments to US District Court, the federal government “entered into a stipulation that it would not enforce the HHS mandate against Priests for Life pending a revision in the rules that would protect religious liberty,” according to LifeNews.com.

“The agreement came as a result of the court strongly urging the government to enter into the stipulation,” says the AFLC. “If an agreement was not reached by December 21st, the court scheduled a hearing for December 26th, at which time it was evident that the court would order the injunction.”

Priests for Life had made previous declarations that it would refuse to obey the mandate if it lost.

Read more here:

http://blog.americanfreedomlawcenter.org/priests-for-life-secures-religious-freedom-exemption-from-hhs-mandate-in-federal-court.html

Wheaton, Belmont Abbey Cases Reinstated

After having their cases against the HHS mandate dismissed twice last summer, Wheaton College Wheaton, IL; non-Catholic) and Belmont Abbey College (Charlotte, NC; Catholic) had their cases reinstated Dec. 19 by a Washington, DC appellate court. The court also ordered the Obama administration to report back to it every 60 days, beginning in February, until it delivers a promise to exempt various groups from the rule on religious grounds.

The decision was based on a government promise, made before a lower court, that it would not enforce the mandate as it is currently worded against either plaintiff or against similar groups, and that it would revise the rule in the first quarter of 2013. The court said these promises were a “binding commitment” on the part of the government, which has not taken any steps to ensure that the promise was legally binding, or to fulfill it. The decision to reinstate both cases is meant to compel the government to hold to its promises.

Both cases are being handled by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

For more see here:

https://www.stophhs.com/stop_hhs_mandate/federal-appeals-court-hands-victory-to-religious-colleges-commands-hhs-to-act-quickly-to-fix-mandate/

Pizza Magnate Sues Government

Domino’s Pizza founder Tom Monoghan filed suit against the government Dec. 14 over the above-mentioned HHS rule.

The suit includes Dominos Farms, a Michigan office park Monoghan owns. Monoghan’s companies currently offer their employees health insurance that does not cover contraception or abortion.

Monoghan, who no longer owns the pizza chain, says that contraception is not healthcare, but is a gravely immoral practice.

In 1998 the businessman also founded Ave Maria University and the Ave Maria School of Law. His goal was to create a new university that would be completely faithful to the magisterium of the Catholic Church and would provide a university education based entirely on Catholic principles.

Ave Maria University filed an HHS mandate suit in February, 2012, represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

Campus Amnesty International: Pro-Life Group Can’t Represent Human Rights

A campus chapter of Amnesty International refused to allow a pro-life group to participate in its Human Rights Day Celebration this month because the international human rights organization considers abortion a woman’s “human right” rather than a violation of a baby’s human right to live.

Saying that Amnesty International’s “school of thought” is “quite opposite” to a pro-life student group’s, the President of University of Buffalo’s chapter of AI said UB Students for Life could not participate in the event. The president of the pro-life group said his organization planned a display on political prisoners, and was attempting to work with AI on an issue the two groups agreed about.

See more here:

http://www.lifenews.com/2012/12/10/amnesty-international-bans-pro-life-group-from-human-rights-event/

Methodists Told “Rent Pavilion for Lesbian Weddings’” Again

In early December the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights said that the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association must rent its property to people for same-sex union ceremonies if they rent it at all.

The owners refused to rent the beachfront pavilion to two women who wanted to hold their civil union ceremony there. The women’s lawyer says it is a case of equality — that the pavilion must be equally open to anyone wanting to rent it for any purpose. Alliance Defending Freedom (formerly the Alliance Defense Fund), which is handling the case for the the Methodist group that owns the property, argues that under the US Constitution a Christian organization has the right to use their property in a way that is consistent with their beliefs.

Both sides of the dispute plan to take it to court once the 3rd U.S. Court of Appeals decides whether the case belongs in the state division of civil rights or in federal court. New Jersey permits civil unions for people of the same sex.

Illinois Declines to Appeal “Morning After” Ruling

Earlier this month the state of Illinois decided not to appeal a September court decision finding that the state did not have the authority to force pharmacists and pharmacies to stock and dispense abortion-inducing drugs that go against their religious beliefs.

The case, Morr-Fitz vs. Quinn case dates to 2005, when then-Governor Rod Blagojevich mandated that all pharmacies and pharmacists stock and dispense the drugs. Governor Blagojevich responded to objections that pharmacists and pharmacies owners who had religious objections to abortion-causing medications by saying they should find another line of work and threatened to prosecute, fine, and pull professional licenses against those who would not comply.

Two pharmacists represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed suits against the state, which resulted in findings that the mandate violated several state laws, and that no one had been denied access to the drugs. As the state admitted that pharmacies could decline to stock or dispense drugs for many reasons, the court found that the mandate was specifically targeted at religious objections. The state appealed the decision once, but lost again in September.

Obama Makes Plan B Lobbyist Top HHS Lawyer

In a move that seems to reiterate the Obama administration’s commitment to the HHS mandate, President Obama nominated a lobbyist for the company that makes the Plan B “morning after pill” as the top lawyer for the  Department of Health and Human Services.

William Schultz, a long-time advocate for abortion, has been a lobbyist for a Washington firm where his largest client was Barr Laboratories, maker of Plan B. The HHS mandate requires employer-paid insurance plans to pay for 100% of the cost of Plan B.

The HHS currently faces several dozen law suits over the mandate.

Counseling Student No Longer Expelled

Julea Ward, an honors student expelled from Eastern Michigan University in 2009 because she asked if she could refer a gay client assigned to her in a class to another counselor, reached a settlement with the university this month.

EMU agreed to pay her $75,000 and remove the expulsion from her record. EMU won in district court, but Ward (represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom) appealed, and this fall the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that public universities “cannot compel students to alter or violate their belief systems . . . as the price for obtaining a degree.”

Ward, who had nearly finished her program, had been assigned the client in a practicum. She asked her supervisor how to handle the potential conflict, and was told to refer the client to a different counselor. Although the program considered many secular reasons acceptable for referring clients to other counselors, the university said that Ward’s religious beliefs were not an acceptable reason and that she was not suitable to be a counselor because she believed homosexual acts were wrong. The university said it would allow her to stay in the program if she attended “remediation” program, and expelled her after a formal EMU hearing in which she refused to do so.

Ward and EMU settled the case after the Sixth Circuit sent the case back to trial.

See the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling here:

http://www.ca6.uscourts.gov/opinions.pdf/12a0024p-06.pdf

Gail Finke

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Gail D. Finke is an author and mother living in Cincinnati, where she writes for The Catholic Beat at Sacred Heart Radio.

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