An Eleventh Hour New Year's Eve Victory for Religious Liberty

Congratulations and thanks to my friends Rob Muise and Dave Yerushalmi at the American Freedom Law Center (on whose advisory board I am proud to sit, along with several distinguished Americans). They worked tirelessly and down to the 2013 wire to persuade the DC Circuit to issue a preliminary injunction last night that prevents the Obamacare mandate from going into effect.

The ruling holds that, at least for now, the government may not coerce religious believers, against the tenets of their faiths, to provide coverage for abortifacients and contraceptives. (The religious liberty position would not prevent those who want abortifacients and contraceptives – which are very affordable and easily accessible – from obtaining them; it would just prevent the government from forcing religious believers violate their beliefs by providing them.) Of course, as we’ve seen before, President Obama often does not deem himself bound by such trifles as judicial rulings and congressional statutes, so we’ll have to see how the administration reacts.

Here, meanwhile, is the press statement AFLC released:

Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit granted the American Freedom Law Center’s (AFLC) emergency motion for an injunction, thereby halting the enforcement of the Obamacare contraception mandate as applied against religious organizations pending appeal of a lower court ruling.

AFLC filed the emergency motion on behalf of Priests for Life, a Catholic pro-life organization; Father Frank Pavone, the National Director of Priests for Life; Dr. Alveda King, the niece of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Pastoral Associate and Director of African-American Outreach for Priests for Life; and Janet Morana, the Executive Director of Priests for Life.

Absent the injunction, the mandate would have applied in full force against Priests for Life on January 1st.

On December 19, Federal Judge Emmett G. Sullivan, sitting in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, upheld the government’s enforcement of the contraception mandate as applied against Priests for Life. AFLC filed an immediate appeal of the ruling to the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and within 24 hours, filed an emergency motion with the appellate court, asking the court to enjoin the mandate while the case proceeded through the appeal process.

Robert Muise, Co-Founder and Senior Counsel of AFLC, commented: “The circuit court’s order was nothing short of a Christmas blessing, coming literally at the 11th hour. Without this injunction, beginning on New Year’s Day the federal government would have forced Priests for Life to either violate its sincerely held religious beliefs or face crippling fines of $100 per employee per day that it is not in compliance with Obama’s unconstitutional and unconscionable mandate.”

David Yerushalmi, Co-Founder and Senior Counsel of AFLC, commented: “We won this battle for religious freedom, but the war—and it is a fiercely fought war at every step along the way between the culture of life and the culture of death—continues. No doubt that this case will ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

AFLC’s lawsuit was filed against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and its Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius; the U.S. Department of the Treasury and its Secretary, Jacob Lew; and the U.S. Department of Labor and its Secretary, Thomas Perez. Each department has a role in enforcing the challenged mandate.