Friday, November 02, 2012

Preliminary Injunction Granted In Catholic Business Owner's Challenge To Contraceptive Coverage Mandate

In Legatus v. Sebelius, (ED MI, Oct. 31, 2012), a Michigan federal district court issued a preliminary injunction under RFRA barring the government, at least for the time being, from enforcing the contraceptive coverage mandate under the Affordable Care Act against Weingartz Supply Co., a family-owned business, and Daniel Weingartz who serves as the company's president. Weingartz, as a Catholic, has religious objections to his company participating in or providing health insurance that includes contraceptive coverage. (See prior related posting.) Another plaintiff in the lawsuit was Legatus, a non-profit organization devoted to reinforcing the Catholic faith in its members' business, personal and professional lives.  The court concluded that Legatus lacks standing to challenge the mandate because it is covered by the government's temporary non-enforcement safe harbor. However, that safe harbor is unavailable to for-profit businesses, and the court held that the remaining plaintiffs thus had standing:
Weingartz Supply Co. was founded as a family business and remains a closely held family corporation.  Accordingly, the court need not, and does not, decide whether Weingartz Supply Co., as a for-profit business, has an independant [sic.] First Amendment right to free exercise of religion.  For the purposes of the pending motion, however, Weingartz Supply Co. may exercise standing in order to assert the free exercise rights of its president, Daniel Weingartz, being identified as “his company.”
Moving to whether on the merits a preliminary injunction under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act should be granted, the court said:
Plaintiffs have made some showing, but not strongly so, of a likelihood of success on the merits, and the Government has made some showing, but not strongly so, of advancing a “compelling” interest by the “least restrictive means.” ... The harm in delaying the implementation of a statute that may later be deemed constitutional must yield to the risk presented here of substantially infringing the sincere exercise of religious beliefs.  The balance of harms tips strongly in Plaintiffs’ favor.  A preliminary injunction is warranted.
Thomas More Law Center issued a press release announcing the court's decision. Reuters reports on  the decision. [Thanks to Rabbi Michael Simon for the lead.]