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LAWSUIT: ‘Neither the Courts nor Government Can Determine What Is a Sin’

The Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, yesterday, filed a friend of the court brief in the case of Zubik v. Burwell, in support of seven non-profit organizations including the Little Sisters of the Poor who claim they cannot comply with the Department of Health and Human Services’ mandate (“HHS Mandate”) because even the so called “accommodations” make them actively complicit in the sin of abortion.  TMLC’s brief asserts that the Court is not the arbiter of sacred Scripture and, therefore, cannot determine whether or not an act constitutes a sin; it can only determine whether the government’s penalties for refusal to complete the sinful act are a substantial burden on religious liberty.

Thomas More Law Center Files Brief in Supreme Court Declaring Neither Court Nor Government Can Determine What Is a Sin

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of TMLC, portrays this case as a potential turning point in American legal history, stating, “The HHS Mandate is a monumental attack on religious liberty.  If this appeal is lost, the government becomes the head of every religious denomination in the country by its assumed authority to determine what is in fact a sin.”

The HHS Mandate requires religious non-profit organizations to participate in a government scheme to provide free contraceptives, including abortion causing drugs and devices (abortifacients), to their employees or face monumental fines that would result in closing the doors of most non-profit organizations that object to the HHS Mandate.

However, the HHS Mandate allows non-profit organizations like the Little Sisters to receive a so-called accommodation from directly providing free contraceptives and abortifacients to their employees.  The accommodation  requires the non-profit organizations to either (1) fill out a form as notice of their objection to contraceptives and abortifacients and provide that form to their insurers, which includes language instructing the insurers to provide free contraceptives and abortifacients to the women in the non-profits’ health plans, or (2) write and send a detailed letter to HHS with all of the information necessary to notify the non-profits’ insurers of their newfound obligation to provide free contraceptives and abortifacients to the women in the non-profits’ health plans.

These notification requirements trigger the non-profits’ insurers to provide free contraceptives and abortifacients to the women in the non-profits’ health plans. This notification requirement makes the non profits complicit in the provision of a service that they find sinful, thereby causing them to sin themselves.

TMLC’s brief argues, supported by a long line of Supreme Court precedent, that neither the government nor the Supreme Court can determine whether an act does or does not violate a person’s religious beliefs.  Rather, the Supreme Court must accept the non-profits’ assertions that the notification requirement is indeed against their religion.  To accept otherwise is to supplant the Church and the Bible with the government, allowing the Supreme Court and the government to interpret tenants of faith.  This slippery slope would subject all religious exercise to the whim of the government’s approval.

 Excerpts from TMLC’s Amicus brief:

  • “This Court has already determined that the fines for noncompliance with the HHS Mandate impose a substantial burden on employers. Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., 134 S. Ct. 2751, 2776 (2014). The ultimate question, therefore, is whether compliance is actually against the Petitioners’ religion. This is something that is for Petitioners to determine, not the Court.”
  • “The Court is not the arbiter of sacred scripture and cannot determine whether the notification form and letter are attenuated enough from the provision of contraceptives that they do not substantially burden Petitioners’ religion. Delving into this inquiry requires the Court to interpret Petitioners’ religious beliefs on the morality of the different levels of complicity with sin. Thomas v. Review Bd. of Indian Employment Security Div., 450 U.S. 707, 718 (1981).  Therefore, the Court can only determine whether Petitioners are being compelled to do something that violates their faith—here, filling out the notification form or writing a notification letter to HHS, both of which trigger the dissemination of contraceptives and abortifacients to their employees in connection with their employee health plans.”
  • “While women have a right to obtain contraceptives, see Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479, 485-486 (1965), this does not mean they have a right to free contraceptives and abortifacients. Moreover, this right certainly does not mean that a person has the right to obtain contraceptives and abortifacients—either directly or indirectly—from their employer at the expense of pillaging the employer’s religious liberty.”

Click here to read TMLC’s entire 19-page brief  

TMLC, representing thirty-six plaintiffs including six religious non-profit organizations, has filed twelve lawsuits challenging the illegal aims of the HHS Mandate.

Florida: Rubio warns taxpayers on the hook to bail out insurance companies for Obamacare enrollees

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL)

As of November 2nd, 2013, Florida has the highest number of enrollees in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act with 3,571 having selected a plan. Florida is one of thirty-six states with a fully or partially run federal insurance exchange. In Florida 123,870 submitted complete applications with 93,456 eligible to enroll in a plan. Texas is second with 108,410 applicants, 80,960 eligible and 2,991 who selected a plan.

But there is a problem with who will pay for the coverage.

In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) writes, “Buried deep in the Department of Health and Human Services’ press release that accompanied the president’s Nov. 14 speech was this sentence: ‘Though this transitional policy was not anticipated by health insurance issuers when setting rates for 2014, the risk corridor program should help ameliorate unanticipated changes in premium revenue. We intend to explore ways to modify the risk corridor program final rules to provide additional assistance.’”

“Risk corridors are generally used to mitigate an insurer’s pricing risk. Under ObamaCare, risk corridors were established for the law’s first three years as a safety-net for insurers who experience financial losses. While risk corridors can protect taxpayers when they are budget-neutral, ObamaCare’s risk corridors are designed in such an open-ended manner that the president’s action now exposes taxpayers to a bailout of the health-insurance industry if and when the law fails,” notes Rubio.

Rubio raises a red flag noting, “Subsequent regulatory rulings have made [it] clear that the administration views this risk-corridor authority as a blank check, requiring no further consultation or approval by Congress. A final rule handed down in March by HHS and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services states: ‘Regardless of the balance of payments and receipts, HHS will remit payments as required under section 1342 of the Affordable Care Act.’”

On November 14th, the American Academy of Actuaries issued a press release saying that President Obama’s plan to reverse health-insurance cancellations “could lead to negative consequences for consumers, health insurers, and the federal government.” More specifically, the academy said, “Costs to the federal government could increase as higher-than-expected average medical claims are more likely to trigger risk corridor payments.”

Rubio concludes with, “It is a damning indictment of ObamaCare’s viability when the president’s only response to people losing their health insurance plans entails putting them on the hook for bailing out insurance companies. The American people are already being directly hurt by ObamaCare’s early failures, and it is unconscionable that they be expected to bail out companies when more failures emerge.”

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Florida Federal Judge Bans Enforcement of HHS Mandate

ANN ARBOR, MI – The Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, announced that this past Monday, Federal District Court Judge Elizabeth A. Kovachevich of the Middle District of Florida granted its Motion for a Preliminary Injunction barring enforcement of the HHS Mandate.  The motion for a Preliminary Injunction was filed by TMLC on behalf of Plaintiffs Thomas R. Beckwith and his family’s company, Beckwith Electric.

The government claimed that once a business owner chooses to enter into the marketplace or incorporate his business, he surrenders his right to exercise his religious beliefs.

However, Judge Kovachevich’s 37-page decision which mentioned Thomas R. Beckwith’s unique family history—Beckwith’s ancestors arrived on the shores of America in 1626 to escape religious persecution from England — ended with a powerful statement on religious freedom:

 “The First Amendment, and its statutory corollary the RFRA, endow upon the citizens of the United States the unalienable right to exercise religion, and that right is not relinquished by efforts to engage in free enterprise under the corporate form. No legislative, executive, or judicial officer shall corrupt the Framers’ initial expression, through their enactment of laws, enforcement of those laws, or more importantly, their interpretation of those laws. And any action that debases, or cheapens, the intrinsic value of the tenet of religious tolerance that is entrenched in the Constitution cannot stand.” (Emphasis added)

Erin Mersino, TMLC’s lead attorney representing Beckwith, commented, “Tom Beckwith was fighting the Federal Government for the freedom to practice his Southern Baptist faith.  The HHS Mandate would have forced him to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs in violation of his religious beliefs or face up to $6 million in annual penalties. Kovachevich’s ruling halts enforcement of the HHS mandate until a final decision is reached in this case.”

 Click here to read Judge Kovachevich’s entire opinion.

Judge Kovachevich’s ruling is the first injunction against the HHS Mandate granted in the State of Florida.  It also marks the twenty-second injunction against the HHS Mandate granted by Federal Courts on religious freedom grounds across the country. The Government is expected to appeal the ruling to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Thomas More Law Center was assisted by local counsel Paul Pizzo and Scott Richards of the firm Fowler White Boggs, P.A. located in Tampa, Florida.

The Attorney General of the State of Florida filed a friend of the court brief in support of the Thomas More Law Center, as did several other Christian organizations, including the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

ABOUT THE THOMAS MORE LAW CENTER:

The Thomas More Law Center defends and promotes America’s Judeo-Christian heritage and moral values, including the religious freedom of Christians, time-honored family values, and the sanctity of human life.  It supports a strong national defense and an independent and sovereign United States of America.  The Law Center accomplishes its mission through litigation, education, and related activities.  It does not charge for its services.  The Law Center is supported by contributions from individuals, corporations and foundations, and is recognized by the IRS as a section 501(c)(3) organization.  You may reach the Thomas More Law Center at (734) 827-2001 or visit our website at www.thomasmore.org.