Federal judge blocks implementation of Obamacare mandate in Domino's Farms case

U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence Zatkoff says blocking HHS Mandate "is in the best interest of the public."

A federal judge has issued a ruling blocking the implementation of a controversial U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate that would force employers to provide insurance plans that cover contraceptive services that could conflict with their faith-based beliefs.

U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence Zatkoff in the Eastern District of Michigan ruled in Thomas Monaghan and Domino's Farms Corp. v. Kathleen Sebelius, et al. that the case can move forward to the discovery phase and signed an order preliminarily blocking the federal government's implementation of the HHS Mandate against Monaghan and Domino's Farms.

In an opinion and order, Zatkoff ruled "the mandate forces Monaghan to violate his beliefs and modify his behavior or else pay substantial penalties for noncompliance."

"Government action that places Monaghan in such a 'Catch-22' dilemma sufficiently constitutes a substantial burden on his free exercise of religion" Zatkoff concluded. "It is in the best interest of the public that Monaghan not be compelled to act in conflict with his religious beliefs."

The Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor filed a motion for prelininary injunction on behalf of Tom Monaghan and his property management company.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs on January 29.

Erin Mersino is the Thomas More Law Center's lead counsel on the case.

"The HHS Mandate forces our clients to provide abortion causing drugs to their employees when doing so is a direct violation of the teachings of the Catholic Church and our clients' sincerely held religious beliefs." Mersino said in a statement. "The court's decision today upholds everyone's freedom of religion and rights protected by the Constitution."

"Religious liberty is America's first freedom," said Schuette. "Any rule, regulation or law that forces American employers to violate their free exercise of religion is a violation of the First Amendment and federal law, including the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

"To date, two Michigan employers have secured victories against this unconstitutional mandate that will force private sector job-providers across America to violate their conscience," he said. "The First Amendment applies to everyone, and we must defend religious liberty for all, not just the chosen few dictated by the federal government."

On January 20 of last year, the Obama administration announced that it would not change its mandate forcing employers to purchase and provide health care services even if those services violate their religious beliefs.

For purposes of the preliminary injunction, Zatkoff focused only on the unconstitutional nature of the HHS Mandate due its infringement on Monaghan's exercise of religion.

Mersino said she expects the government will appeal Zatkoff's ruling to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Published: Mon, Mar 18, 2013

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