CHICAGO – The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has granted a temporary injunction to two religious-owned businesses who had sought relief from the abortion pill mandate in Obamacare.
The court ruled 2-1 on Friday that plaintiffs Korte & Luitjohan Contractors and Grote Industries may challenge the mandate, taking issue with the government’s insinuation that faith must be checked at the door the moment that one begins their business day. Korte & Luitjohan Contractors, Inc., is a family-owned contracting business located in Highland, Illinois and Grote Industries is a Madison, Indiana-based automobile lighting and safety systems manufacturer.
“At bottom, the government’s argument is premised on a far-too-narrow view of religious freedom: Religious exercise is protected in the home and the house of worship but not beyond,” it wrote. “Religious people do not practice their faith in that compartmentalized way; free-exercise rights are not so circumscribed.”
“On the government’s understanding of religious liberty, a Jewish restaurant operating for profit could be denied the right to observe Kosher dietary restrictions,” the court provided as an example. “That cannot be right. There is nothing inherently incompatible between religious exercise and profit-seeking.”
The panel also stated that the requirement laid too much of a burden on business owners, placing before them the ultimatum of following God or the government.
“In short, the federal government has placed enormous pressure on the plaintiffs to violate their religious beliefs and conform to its regulatory mandate,” it wrote. “Refusing to comply means ruinous fines, essentially forcing the Kortes and Grotes to choose between saving their companies and following the moral teachings of their faith.”
All three judges on the panel were appointed by Republican presidents: Justice Joel Martin Flaum was appointed by Ronald Reagan, Justice Ilana Rovner was appointed by George H.W. Bush and Justice Diane Sykes was appointed by George W. Bush. Rovner dissented from her colleagues, opining that “[n]ot all rights that the Constitution accords to a person are extended to corporations.”
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which represented Grote Industries, applauded the majority decision on Tuesday.
“All Americans, including job creators, should be free to honor God and live according to their faith,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. “The court’s decision joins the majority of other rulings on the mandate, which have found it to excessively conflict with our nation’s guarantee of religious freedom to all Americans.”
“The decision rightly foresees the dangers of allowing government to have this kind of power,” he added. “If the government can force family business owners to act contrary to their deepest convictions under the threat of fining them out of business, it is a danger to everybody.”
While the majority of requests for injunctions have been granted to business owners over the past year, the federal circuits remain divided on the matter. The 3rd Circuit, 6th Circuit and D.C. Circuit have all issued rulings that differentiate public businesses from religious entities, as opposed to other circuits that have declared the operations of a secular business and the convictions of religious business owners to be inextricably linked.