Huge Victory for Religious Liberty

oobbOn December 16, Judge Brian Cogan of the U.S. District Court for the Eatern District of New York struck down Obamacare’s contraception mandate as applied to religious non-profit organizations.

While previous courts had ruled against Obama’s mandate as applied to for-profit entities, this is the first court to hold that participating in Obama’s scheme to provide free birth control is a substantial burden on the free practice of religion.

The plaintiffs  “have demonstrated that the mandate, despite accommodation, compels  them to perform acts that are contrary to their religion… And there can be no  doubt that the coercive pressure here is substantial.”

Judge Cogan, rejecting Obama defense of a compelling interest in uniform enforcement wrote: “Tens of millions of people are exempt from the mandate, under exemptions for grandfathered health plans, small businesses, and “religious employers” like the Diocesan plaintiffs. . .Having granted so many exemptions already, the government cannot show a compelling interest in denying one to these plaintiffs (Catholic Archdioces of New York).

In denying Obama’s last minute claim that the mandate, as implemented for religious organizations, did not, in fact, mandate contraception, Judge Cogan wrote: “Here, the government implicitly acknowledges that applying the mandate to plaintiffs may in fact do nothing at all to expand contraceptive coverage, because plaintiffs’ TPAs aren’t actually required to do anything after receiving the self-certification. In other words, the mandate forces plaintiffs to fill out a form which, though it violates their religious beliefs, may ultimately serve no purpose whatsoever.  A law that is totally ineffective cannot serve a compelling interest.”

In denying the government’s  argument that Obama’s failure to convince Congress to “fix” ObamaCare authorized him to enforce his contraception mandate, Judge Cogan wrote: “. . .It would set a dangerous precedent to hold that if the Executive Branch cannot act unilaterally, then there is no alternative solution.  If defendants lack the required statutory authority, Congress may pass appropriate legislation.”

The archdiocese, in a press release said the ruling will be fundamental in the  Obamacare debate.  “The court has correctly cut through the artificial  construct which essentially made faith-based organizations other than churches  and other houses of worship second class citizens with second class First  Amendment protections,” the release said. “Religious freedom is our ‘First  Freedom,’ guaranteed in the Constitution of the United States.  This decision  wisely and properly affirms that this freedom must extend beyond merely being  free to choose how we worship, and must include how we act in accord with our  religious beliefs.”

Considering how often Obama has justified his expansion of executive power on Congress’ failur to do his bidding, this ruling was not only a huge victory for religious liberty but a huge win for limited government in all spheres.

The ObamaCare mandate also took a body blow in the DC federal appeals court on November 1 when the court ruled that forcing business owners to fund and facilitate contraception and seterilization services against the tenets of their faith encroaches  on their free exercise of religious belief and that the government’s argument that protecting womens’ health trumped that right was absurd.

The mandate “trammels the right of free exercise,” Judge Janice Rogers Brown wrote for a divided three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.   The ruling was largely in line with most others around the country so far. Of nearly 40 challenges, only a handful of courts have upheld the government’s requirement that employer health plans provide free birth control, emergency contraception and sterilization.

The Supreme Court will eventually weigh in on this, and the White House had better get prepared for bad news.  As the New York Times notes, this mandate is mostly getting laughed out of court so far, and I’d bet that it won’t do well at the next level either

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