HASTINGS, Minn. — A Christian automotive dealership in Minnesota has been granted a temporary exemption from the abortion pill mandate in Obamacare until the U.S. Supreme Court decides the Hobby Lobby case in June.
As previously reported, The Liberty Institute of Plano, Texas filed suit last month on behalf of Hastings Automotive, Inc. and Hastings Chrysler Center, along with their owner, Doug Erickson, who is a Christian. The organization notes that Erickson’s beliefs as a Christian prevent him from being involved in acts that destroy human life.
“Plaintiffs base their challenge on their sincerely held religious belief that life begins at conception and certain of the FDA-approved contraceptive methods, such as emergency contraceptives Plan B and ella, as well as certain intrauterine devices (‘IUDs’), can destroy a human embryo,” the federal complaint outlined. “Plaintiffs believe that it is immoral and sinful for them to provide a group health plan that includes coverage for such contraceptive methods.”
Erickson’s dealership includes an on-site pastor and regular voluntary prayer meetings, and the business also financially supports Total Life Care Centers in Minnesota, which are multi-site pregnancy care centers that help abortion-minded women choose life.
“Erickson characterizes the work he does through the dealerships as ‘marketplace ministry,’ by which he seeks to serve Christ first and foremost and show the light of Christ to those with whom he comes in contact, such as customers and employees,” the lawsuit explained. “Since Erickson dedicated the dealerships to Christ, Plaintiffs have seen a marked improvement in customer satisfaction, employee engagement, and business performance.”
On Monday, the Liberty Institute formally announced that the federal government had officially agreed not to enforce the contraceptive mandate in regard to Hastings Automotive—at least until the Supreme Court ultimately rules whether exemptions for non-profit businesses are permissible.
“We are grateful that the United States Department of Justice agreed to temporarily refrain from enforcing a portion of the law that we believe would force Mr. Erickson to give up his freedom when doing business,” Jeremy Dys, Senior Counsel for the Liberty Institute, said in a statement. “We hope the Supreme Court of the United States will agree that every American should be free to live and work according to their beliefs and without fear of punishment by their government.”
The agreement was reflected in a court ruling from U.S. District Judge Paul A. Magnuson, who granted Erickson’s motion to stay the mandate and all further proceedings until the nation’s highest court issues its decision in the Hobby Lobby case.
As previously reported, the Supreme Court heard argument on Tuesday surrounding the popular craft chain, as well as a challenge from Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation, a Mennonite-owned kitchen cabinet company. The nine justices appeared to be divided over whether for-profit businesses should be granted exemptions for religious purposes. According to reports, the female justices were more skeptical of allowing the exemption, while the male justices seemed to lean more in favor of accommodating the religious beliefs of corporations.
A ruling is expected in June, and could have significant impact on the rights of religious-owned businesses to practice their faith in the workplace.