By: Susan Jones
The first private business owner to sue the Obama administration over its contraception mandate has won a small victory in the larger battle to preserve his religious liberty:
A federal appeals court panel on Wednesday temporarily blocked the Obamacare mandate from taking effect against the Missouri business owner, pending the the outcome of the appeals process.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit granted a motion for a preliminary injunction filed on behalf of Frank O’Brien and O’Brien Industrial Holdings of St. Louis, which runs the Christy family of companies.
O’Brien, a Roman Catholic, says his religious beliefs guide the operation of his business, which employs 87 people. On its website, the holding company says its mission “is to make our labor a pleasing offering to the Lord while enriching our families and society.” The holding company operates Christy Catalytics, Christy Industrial Services, Christy Minerals Company, and the Christy Refractories Company.
“By granting our motion, the appeals court blocks the implementation of the HHS mandate and clears the way for our lawsuit to continue – a significant victory for our client,” said Francis Manion, Senior Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, which sued on O’Brien’s behalf.
“The order sends a message that the religious beliefs of employers must be respected by the government. We have argued from the beginning that employers like Frank O’Brien must be able to operate their business in a manner consistent with their moral values, not the values of the government. We look forward to this case moving forward and securing the constitutional rights of our client.”
The temporary injunction issued Wednesday is the first decision from an appeals court in the litigation challenging the Health and Human Services mandate, which requires employers to purchase health insurance for their employees that includes coverage for contraceptives, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs.
In October, a federal district court judge granted the Obama Administration’s motion to dismiss O’Brien’s lawsuit. The ACLJ immediately filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, leading to the temporary order issued on Wednesday.
Until O’Brien filed his lawsuit, only religious organizations or institutions had challenged the mandate.
In addition to the O’Brien case, the ACLJ has filed two other direct challenges to the HHS mandate and it has filed amicus briefs backing other challenges in more than a dozen pending cases.