Strong Statement Made by Ruling in Birth Control Mandate

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A federal appellate court has at least temporarily blocked enforcement of the birth control mandate in the broadest ruling yet on that provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Arguing on religious grounds, the suit was brought by two construction companies claiming that the birth control mandate “trammels” their expression of religious freedom. A panel of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago agreed.

“The Free Exercise Clause protects not just belief and profession but also religiously motivated conduct; and individuals and organizations—whether incorporated or not—can exercise religion,” the panel ruled.
Ruling further, the panel said that a faith-based corporation can claim the same protection from religiously-motivated government mandates as an individual.

Last week’s decision is the latest in several conflicting rulings on the birth control mandate, and nearly guarantees that the issue is headed for the U.S. Supreme Court, which will initially discuss differing rulings in a conference session later this month. In the latest case, owners of the construction companies had argued that being forced to fund birth control coverage goes against their religious beliefs.
The three-judge panel issued the first ban on enforcement of the provision.

“These cases — two among many currently pending in courts around the country — raise important questions about whether business owners and their closely held corporations may assert a religious objection to the contraception mandate and whether forcing them to provide this coverage substantially burdens their religious-exercise rights,” U.S. Circuit Judge Diane Sykes wrote in the majority opinion.
Recent appellate decisions on Washington and Denver have also sided with the religious freedom challenge while panels in Cincinnati and Philadelphia have upheld the birth control mandate.
The Chicago-based Seventh Circuit has jurisdiction over Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin.

 

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