Yesterday, yet another district court halted the Obama Administration from forcing its anti-conscience mandate to provide coverage for abortifacients and contraceptives on unwilling employers. Many employers—religious, secular, nonprofit, and for-profit—believe it violates the free exercise of their faith to comply with this mandate. This decision brings the scorecard of for-profit cases to 29–5, strongly favoring the free exercise of religion.
The plaintiff in this case is Cherry Creek Mortgage, a family-run home loan provider with 730 employees operated by evangelical Christians according to their faith. Cherry Creek sued the government in March 2013, arguing that the anti-conscience mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the First Amendment guarantee of the free exercise of religion.
The court initially denied Cherry Creek’s request for a preliminary injunction to stop the mandate while the case was pending. But in June, the Tenth Circuit found that Hobby Lobby—another for-profit corporation that challenged the anti-conscience mandate—was likely to succeed on the merits of its RFRA claim, stating that “religious conduct…can be communicated by individuals and for-profit corporations alike.” The Third Circuit disagreed, so now the anti-conscience mandate is likely heading to the Supreme Court.
Cherry Creek asked the court to reconsider in light of the Hobby Lobby decision, and yesterday the judge agreed. In granting a preliminary injunction, the judge found that Cherry Creek is faced with a “Hobson’s Choice between a continuing infringement of religious freedom or potentially crippling monetary penalties.” The judge noted that “each day that Cherry Creek is forced to provide the objectionable coverage their sincerely held religious beliefs are violated.” Now Cherry Creek does not have to comply with the anti-conscience mandate while its case is pending.
As the counsel for Cherry Creek stated, “People of faith in this nation, including business owners, have the constitutionally protected freedom to live and do business according to their faith. The Obama administration should not be attempting to deprive Americans of this cherished liberty.” Yesterday’s order is another blow to the anti-conscience mandate and a step in the direction of safeguarding Americans’ first freedom.