Monaghan Beats Free-Birth-Control Rule -- for Now

by Wesley J. Smith

The Obama administration is trying to force its secular progressive morality on all businesses in America by requiring every employer with 50 or more full-time workers to pay for free birth control, sterilization surgeries, and potentially abortifacient drugs for female employees and dependents of employees. That has generated a swarm of angry lawsuits claiming protection under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which requires the government to demonstrate a compelling state interest before being allowed to compel Americans to substantially violate their religious beliefs.

The Obama administration has taken the outrageous position that people in business have no religious beliefs to protect in the context of enterprise because seeking profit is a secular endeavor. Most cases have come down on the side of protection — with the disgraceful exception of the Hobby Lobby case. And now, Tom Monaghan has obtained a preliminary injunction for himself and his business, Domino’s Farms, from the free-birth-control rule.

It’s worth reading some of U.S. district judge Lawrence P. Zatkoff’s reasoning. From Monaghan v. Sebelius:

Monaghan states that once the mandate takes effect, he—as sole owner and director of DF—will be required by law to provide, through DF, health insurance coverage for contraception. Monaghan asserts that acting to have his company provide such coverage would cause him to commit a grave sin according to his religious beliefs. This argument is well-taken, since DF cannot act (or sin) on its own. Therefore, even though the ACA does not literally apply to Monaghan, the Court is in no position to declare that acting through his company to provide certain health care coverage to his employees does not violate Monaghan’s religious beliefs. They are, after all, his religious beliefs.

But note, that as with similar rulings:

The Court takes no position as to whether DF, as a for-profit business, has an independent right to freely exercise religion. See Legatus, 2012 WL 5359630 at *4 (“[plaintiff corporation] was founded as a family business and remains a closely held family corporation. Accordingly, the court need not, and does not, decide whether [plaintiff], as a for-profit business, has an independent First Amendment right to free exercise of religion.”).

That issue will be decided by the Supreme Court. The robustness of our American liberty to free exercise of religion and the scope of RFRA hang in the balance. 

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