(Photo: Bruce Ellefson/ Alliance Defending Freedom)
A three-judge panel of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a Colorado-based business does not have to adhere to the federal government's abortion pill mandate as its lawsuit proceeds.
In a ruling issued Thursday, the panel affirmed a lower court ruling on behalf of Hercules Industries, a family-owned Denver-based HVAC manufacturer.
The decision noted that the motion to appeal was "denied as moot" given that the United States Supreme Court likely will hear arguments in a similar lawsuit regarding the Hobby Lobby retail chain.
"We conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting the preliminary injunction to Hercules. We therefore affirm and remand to the district court," reads the decision in part.
"Given the pending petition for certiorari before the Supreme Court in Hobby Lobby, the district court is instructed to abate further proceedings until the Supreme Court completes its consideration of the Hobby Lobby case."
Hercules is owned by the Newland family, who are represented by the conservative legal group, Alliance Defending Freedom.
Matt Bowman, senior legal counsel at ADF, told The Christian Post that the decision could lead to future legal victories against the abortion pill mandate.
"The Court ruled that when a family's religious freedom claim is strong, that fact alone provides a strong reason for a court to give them an injunction against the abortion-pill mandate," said Bowman.
In July 2012, a district court judge ruled that Hercules Industries will be exempt from having to abide by the preventive services mandate of the Department of Health and Human Services while their lawsuit against HHS is processed.
The owners of Hercules, a devout Catholic family, had sued the federal government over the mandate, arguing that it forced them to provide services contrary to their religious beliefs.
Later that year, the federal government filed an appeal against Hercules, arguing that the company should provide the services as the lawsuit proceeds.
The recent decision to maintain the exemption for Hercules drew from the lawsuit that Oklahoma-based company Hobby Lobby filed against HHS regarding the mandate.
Hobby Lobby is being represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is overseeing dozens of suits against the mandate across the nation.
Lori Windham, senior counsel at the Becket Fund, told The Christian Post that she was "glad to see this decision from the court."
"It's not surprising-the Tenth Circuit was required to follow the important precedent that it set a few months ago in the Hobby Lobby case," said Windham.
"I hope that other courts will follow its example protecting religious liberty for Americans who create jobs and own family businesses."
Windham also told CP that the "most interesting thing about this ruling is that the court stopped all further action in the case while it waits to see what the Supreme Court does with the Hobby Lobby ruling."
"It's unusual for a court to issue a stay in one case pending a petition for certiorari in a different case," said Windham, who believed that the Supreme Court would decide to hear the Hobby Lobby case.