Appeals Courts Make Conflicting Rulings on Contraception Mandate

By:  Dave Bohon
Appeals Courts Make Conflicting Rulings on Contraception Mandate

Within days of each other two federal appeals courts have issued conflicting decisions in lawsuits against the contraception mandate.

A federal appeals court has ruled against Hobby Lobby, a nationwide arts-and-crafts retailer, in its efforts to block enforcement of the Obama administration's contraception mandate. A part of the ObamaCare health law, the mandate requires businesses to provide their employees with free contraceptives, including abortion-causing drugs such as the “morning after” pill.

Hobby Lobby CEO David Green, an outspoken evangelical who operates his business on biblical principals, filed suit in September to block enforcement of the mandate, saying that the mandate forced him and his family “to choose between following the laws of the country that we love or maintaining the religious beliefs that have made our business successful and have supported our family and thousands of our employees and their families.”

In November U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton ignored the conflict Green faced, ruling that his company would be required to implement the mandate and offer contraceptives to its nearly 15,000 employees, as well as the hundreds of employees of an educational supply retailer Green owns.

On December 20, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Denver followed up on Heaton's ruling by denying Green's request for a temporary injunction while his lawsuit against the mandate goes forward. Green could now face up to $1.3 million in fines per day unless he complies with the mandate. In its ruling, the court said Green had not proven that the mandate would “substantially burden” the religious values he uses to run his company.

Kyle Duncan, general counsel with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing Hobby Lobby in the case, said in a statement that Green and his family were naturally disappointed with the ruling. “They simply asked for a temporary halt to the mandate while their appeal goes forward, and now they must seek relief from the United States Supreme Court,” said Duncan. “The Greens will continue to make their case on appeal that this unconstitutional mandate infringes their right to earn a living while remaining true to their faith.”

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