Perhaps the most high profile ruling of the season came on Dec. 26 when Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor denied an emergency application from a Christian-owned company known as Hobby Lobby. The Christian-owned company asked to be exempt from the mandate which took effect on January 1.
However, her denial was not based on the merits of the case and was issued as a result of what she saw as a failure to satisfy the legal requirements for blocking the mandate on an emergency basis. Thus, Sotomayor ruled that the case could continue to be heard in the lower courts - which it will be.
Unfortunately for Hobby Lobby and its smaller sister company, Mardel, it now faces fines of up to $1.3 million a day for disobeying the mandate.
This isn't stopping Hobby Lobby founder and CEO David Green from conducting his business in a Christian manner and refusing to provide insurance for abortifacient drugs. He has stated firmly that his family will continue seeking to serve God through their business decisions - and to press their case in court.
The Hill reported that on December 30, just two days before the mandate was to take effect, a federal judge ordered a temporary halt on its imposition for Tom Monaghan, the Catholic billionaire who founded Domino's Pizza.
Federal District Court Judge Lawrence P. Zatkoff ruled that Monaghan "has shown that abiding by the mandate will substantially burden his exercise of religion. The government has failed to satisfy its burden of showing that its actions were narrowly tailored to serve a compelling interest. ... This factor weighs in favor of granting Plaintiffs' motion."
On December 18, a federal appeals court in Washington DC handed a huge victory to Wheaton College and Belmont Abbey College when it reinstated their lawsuits challenging the mandate.
Last summer, two lower courts dismissed the cases as being premature, but the appeals court ruled otherwise.
In addition to reinstating the case, it also ordered the Obama Administration to report back every 60 days, beginning in February, until the Administration makes good on its promise to issue a new rule to protect the College's religious freedom. The new rule is expected to be issued on March 31.
“The D.C. Circuit has now made it clear that government promises and press conferences are not enough to protect religious freedom,” said Kyle Duncan, General Counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, who argued the case. “The court is not going to let the government slide by on non-binding promises to fix the problem down the road.”
Dozens of cases are currently making their way through the court system challenging the mandate which will force all employers to provide insurance coverage for birth control, sterilization and morning after pills, regardless of their religious beliefs.
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