Fed Lawsuits Pile Up Against HHS Mandate; Court Injunctions Block Enforcement

Federal lawsuits continue to pile up against the Obama administration's birth control mandate even after additional proposed rules were offered last week.

A suit was filed Monday on behalf of the owner of several small businesses that run senior living centers and skilled nursing facilities in Colorado. Meanwhile, two recent preliminary injunctions by appeals courts blocking enforcement of the mandate in separate cases solidify the case against the rule, says religious freedom law group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).

The owner of the senior facilities, Stephen W. Briscoe, is an evangelical Christian who specifically objects to being forced to provide coverage for abortion-inducing drugs in the company's healthcare plan, according to ADF. There are now 45 separate lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate, which is a regulation under the Affordable Care Act (aka "Obamacare").

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"Americans should be free to honor God and live according to their consciences no matter where they are. A person's faith convictions don't disappear the moment he or she steps outside of a church building," said ADF Senior Counsel Michael J. Norton, a former U.S. attorney. "This lawsuit puts a glaring light on the fact that the Obama administration just doesn't understand what religious freedom really is. All Americans have a God-given freedom to live and do business according to their faith, and the First Amendment has always protected that."

ADF describes the mandate as one that forces employers, regardless of their religious or moral convictions, to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception under threat of heavy penalties.

Meanwhile, two crucial decisions last week by federal courts, ADF says, solidified the legal case the group is making on behalf of "a broad cross-section of Christians opposed to the Obamacare abortion pill mandate."

On January 30, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit issued a preliminary injunction to block enforcement of the mandate against family-run Grote Industries, an Indiana-based vehicle lighting manufacturer that filed suit in October of last year.

Then, on February 1, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit issued a similar preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the mandate against Annex Medical, a Minnesota family-run business represented by Zachary S. Kestler of Act Right Legal Foundation (one of nearly 2,200 allied attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom).

"Americans have the God-given freedom to live and do business according to their faith," says ADF Senior Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. "Forcing employers to surrender their faith in order to earn a living is unprecedented, unnecessary, and unconstitutional. Honoring God is important every day, in all areas of life, including in our work. Freedom is not the government's to give and take away when it pleases.

"These courts have delivered the Obama administration a reminder of this foundational truth, and we are confident that this unconstitutional mandate's days are numbered," Bowman says.

Briscoe owns several separate Colorado companies that operate senior independent living residences, assisted living centers, and skilled nursing facilities along with related businesses that manage such facilities, according to ADF. His businesses collectively employ more than 200 full-time employees. His lawsuit, Briscoe v. Sebelius, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys and allied attorneys are also litigating eight other lawsuits against the mandate on behalf of Sioux Chief Manufacturing, Annex Medical, Grote Industries, Tyndale House Publishers, Grace College and Seminary and Biola University, Hercules Industries, Geneva College and The Seneca Hardwood Lumber Company, and Louisiana College. The lawsuits represent a large cross-section of Protestants and Catholics who object to the mandate.

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