Federal Judge Strikes Down Obamacare Birth Control Mandate on Catholics

Federal Judge Strikes Down Obamacare Birth Control Mandate on Catholics

A Brooklyn federal judge has granted a permanent injunction to several New York Catholic groups, preventing the Obamacare birth control mandate from taking effect on them this January.

According to the New York Post, this is the first such federal ruling on the mandate, despite the agreement of many courts that it is unconstitutional.

Catholic groups sued the government, arguing that the Affordable Care Act’s demand that all employers provide birth control coverage for their employees violates the groups’ First Amendment right to the free practice of their religion. They will not, therefore, have to provide this coverage when Obamacare kicks in on January 1. Citing a “coercive pressure” that is “substantial” on the religious groups to buy products and endorse behavior their religion bans, the court ruled that, while the judges themselves cannot rule on the morality of using contraceptives, it is clear that Catholic groups see the mandate as a force which “compels affirmation of a repugnant belief.” This was enough for the judge to declare that they should not be forced to act in accord with it.

The principal of Monsignor Farrell High School in Staten Island, one of the parties winning this latest suit, had argued earlier this month that the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that employers provide birth control was the “complete opposite” of Catholic teachings and that the mandate “clearly violates the freedom of religion,” an argument with which the judge agreed.

This is the first permanent injunction in the lifespan of the Affordable Care Act, but it is certainly not the first law suit to conclude this way for the Obama administration. The D.C. Court of Appeals ruled in November that two Catholic brothers who own a large produce company would not have to abide by the contraception mandate, but as they are not a religious group, the court ruled that the problem in this case was the “undue burden” on the company the law imposed. In Michigan, another judge came to the same conclusion last January, and with a much larger employer — Domino’s Pizza. Founder Thomas Monaghan called abortion and contraceptives “gravely immoral” and argued that he did not want to run his company in a way that violated his Catholic faith. The Domino’s ruling only provided a preliminary injunction, however — a stay on the implementation of Obamacare, subject to appeal. 

The Democratic leaders responsible for drafting and passing the Affordable Care Act repeatedly argued that such a mandate was necessary to advance the rights of women and provide adequate health coverage. Robert Creamer, the political architect of the law, called it a “moral imperative” upon all Americans to provide contraceptive coverage. Conversely, with this recent ruling, the chorus of constitutional experts on courts finding that the mandate violates the First Amendment grows louder.