Bench Memos

First Court Victory in Battle Against HHS Mandate

Last Friday, in Newland v. Sebelius, a federal district judge in Colorado granted a preliminary injunction barring the federal government from enforcing the HHS contraceptive/abortifacient mandate against a Colorado corporation and its family owners. The court based its ruling on the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act and therefore found it unnecessary to address plaintiffs’ constitutional challenges.

To anyone who has been paying attention, there should be nothing remotely surprising about this ruling, as it’s clear that the HHS mandate tramples the protections guaranteed by RFRA. In any case that has a proper plaintiff and that doesn’t present ripeness or other justiciability problems, any fair and competent judge who reaches the merits should rule against the HHS mandate. (The judge in this case was appointed by President Carter.) That said, the lawyers at the Alliance Defending Freedom (the new name for the Alliance Defense Fund) deserve high praise for their fine work presenting this case on behalf of plaintiffs.

It’s also worth emphasizing that the plaintiffs in this case were ordinary business owners and their family-owned business corporation. Like the Obama administration itself, many commentators on the HHS mandate have taken the position that only religious organizations (or only some subset of them) have any possible claims against the HHS mandate. But, as the court’s ruling resoundingly confirms, religious freedom is a right that belongs to all Americans—and it extends beyond worship services to how they live out their faith in their everyday lives.

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