The U.S. Department of Justice has said it will not oppose a lawsuit filed by a Michigan-based Christian-run business that is seeking suspension of enforcement of the abortion pill mandate against it.
In the lawsuit by Trijicon, which manufactures sights and scopes for the military, law enforcement, and hunter, the Justice Department has notified the court it will not oppose the business' request for a court order that would suspend enforcement of the mandate against the company, Alliance Defending Freedom said in a statement on Friday.
"All Americans, including job creators, should be free to honor God and live according to their consciences wherever they are," said Senior Legal Counsel Matt Bowman of Alliance Defending Freedom, which filed the suit on the company's behalf. "As the vast majority of courts have found so far, the abortion pill mandate is an excessive burden on the religious freedom that the Constitution recognizes and guarantees to all Americans."
Trijicon and its owners have deeply held religious beliefs that life begins at conception or fertilization, attorneys stated in Trijicon v. Sebelius, filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. "These beliefs cause them to object to covering items in their health plan that they believe to cause early abortion. Defendants, however, are mandating that Trijicon violate its and its owners' beliefs by covering such items in next year's employee health insurance plan which begins on September 1, 2013."
"My father began this business with the intent of treating our employees and customers in a way that represented his strong Christian faith," said Trijicon President and CEO Stephen Bindon. "By filing this lawsuit, we are simply trying to retain the culture and values we've always promoted here at Trijicon."
The Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare," requires employers to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs and devices, sterilization, and contraception under threat of heavy penalties, regardless of the employers' religious beliefs. However, courts have issued orders protecting religious freedom of employers – sometimes even without government objection – in 25 of 32 cases directly considering requests to block the mandate.
The mandate provides for an exemption for religious groups, but it is so narrow that most religious groups – including social service organizations, hospitals and schools – do not qualify, as the rule considers only worship as religion, and not serving those in need.
In May, the Justice Department requested a federal appellate court to dismiss its own attempt to require that the mandate go into effect for Tyndale House Publishers while its lawsuit was pending. The retreat indicated that the Obama administration was getting nervous about defending its position that a Bible publisher is not religious enough to warrant an exemption, argued Bowman.
Last week, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals granted Liberty University a stay from enforcement of the birth control mandate, but then quickly reversed itself the following day. "Denying a stay while awaiting a petition for cert is not unusual, but it is unusual that conflicting orders are sent on the subject," Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, said.
Last month, U.S. District Court Judge Joe Heaton temporarily exempted Christian-run business Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. from the 2010 HHS mandate. "This victory comes less than a month after a landmark decision by the full 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled 5-3 that Hobby Lobby can exercise religion under the First Amendment and is likely to win its case against the mandate," noted the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty which represented the company.
Also in July, a diverse group of religious leaders wrote an open letter to all Americans saying they will continue to fight for their religious freedom by opposing the birth control mandate.
"Through its contraceptive coverage mandate, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) continues to breach universal principles affirmed and protected by the U.S. Constitution and other federal laws," the letter reads. "While the mandate is a specific offense, it represents a greater fundamental breach of conscience by the federal government."