Days before the contraception mandate, which requires employers to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs to employees, is set to go into effect, a federal appeals court has temporarily blocked it from being enforced against an Illinois company.
The majority in a three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago on Friday put the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate on hold. The injunction came in a federal lawsuit filed by the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) on behalf of Korte & Luitjohan Contractors, Inc., which is owned by a Catholic couple.
Cyril B. Korte and Jane E. Korte own a controlling interest in the company and contend the HHS mandate violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA. The court majority held that the Kortes had established a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits of their RFRA claim, and that the government had not yet justified the apparent "substantial burden" on their religious exercise.
This was the second injunction by a federal appeals court to temporarily halt enforcement against people who said it violated their faith, according to Reuters. More than 40 lawsuits are challenging a requirement in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that requires most for-profit companies to offer workers insurance coverage for contraceptive drugs and devices and abortifacients.
"We're extremely pleased that the appeals court blocked the implementation of this discriminatory mandate," said ACLJ Senior Counsel Edward White in a statement. "Our argument is clear: the HHS mandate unlawfully compels employers such as our clients to do the following: abandon their faith to comply with the law, or follow their faith and pay significant annual penalties to the federal government. This mandate violates the conscience rights of our clients, and we're now looking forward to proceeding with our legal challenge."
The Seventh Circuit noted that the HHS mandate forces people of faith "to choose between violating their religious beliefs by maintaining insurance coverage for contraception and sterilization services contrary to the teachings of their faith and subjecting their company to substantial financial penalties."
With this important ruling, all of the ACLJ's clients with pending litigation over the HHS mandate have now been granted a temporary reprieve from the mandate's violation of religious liberty as the lawsuits continue, the pro-life legal organization said.
Earlier this month, a federal district court rejected a motion for an injunction to block the implementation of the mandate and the ACLJ immediately appealed the decision.
The ACLJ has filed three direct legal challenges against the HHS mandate and more than a dozen amicus briefs backing other lawsuits challenging the mandate.