The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), a pro-life legal organization that focuses on constitutional law, said a decision by a federal appeals court that clears the way for the ObamaCare HHS Mandate to be put on hold represents a “significant victory for protecting the religious beliefs of individuals and corporations.” The opinion, posted here, comes in the case of Korte v. Sebelius.
In a 2-1 decision issued Friday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, the court reversed the federal district court’s denial of a motion for a preliminary injunction and remanded the case for the district court to enter the preliminary injunction. At the same time, the court upheld the rights of both individuals and companies to challenge the ObamaCare HHS Mandate – the first decision of its kind in the ongoing HHS Mandate litigation.
“This is a significant victory for protecting the religious beliefs of individuals and corporations,” said Edward White, Senior Counsel of the ACLJ who represents the Illinois company. “It is also important to note that the appeals court determined that the HHS Mandate should not move forward against our clients while this issue is being litigated. It has been our position from the beginning that the HHS Mandate violates America’s longstanding history of protecting conscience rights. The Mandate is unlawfully compelling employers such as our clients to do the following: abandon their faith to comply with the law, or follow their faith and pay significant annual penalties to the federal government. The decision by the appeals court is encouraging as this issue heads to the Supreme Court.”
The ACLJ represents Korte & Luitjohan Contractors, Inc., a family owned, full-service construction contractor serving Central and Southern Illinois for over 50 years. The company is located in Highland, Illinoi and has about 90 full time employees. The company provides a group health insurance plan for only its non-union employees, which number about 20. Cyril B. Korte andJane E. Korte own a controlling interest in the company and contend the HHS mandate violates their Catholic faith. The ACLJ filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the individuals and company in October 2012 and that is posted here.
In the appeals court decision issued Friday, the majority concluded: “We hold that the plaintiffs – the business owners and their companies – may challenge the mandate. We further hold that compelling them to cover these services substantially burdens their religious exercise rights. Under RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act) the government must justify the burden under the standard of strict scrutiny. So far it has not done so, and we doubt that it can. Because the RFRA claims are very likely to succeed and the balance of harms favors protecting the religious-liberty rights of the plaintiffs, we reverse and remand with instructions to enter preliminary injunctions.”
This decision comes just days after the ACLJ filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court, posted here, in the case of Gilardi v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The ACLJ urged the high court to overturn an appeals court decision that refused to permit companies and corporations from bringing religious liberty claims in challenging the Mandate.
To date, 40 for-profit business owners have filed legal challenges to the Mandate. The ACLJ has filed 7 cases in federal court including the Korte case.
In addition to the direct challenges, the ACLJ has filed more than 15 amicus briefs backing other legal challenges to the HHS mandate.