(Washington, DC) - The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), a pro-life legal organization that focuses on constitutional law, today urged a federal court to grant a preliminary injunction which would halt the enforcement of a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate that violates the religious beliefs of a Missouri business owner. The ACLJ filed a federal lawsuit in March against the HHS challenging the mandate, which requires employers to purchase health insurance for their employees that include coverage for contraceptives, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs.
The ACLJ represents Frank R. O'Brien and O'Brien Industrial Holdings, LLC (OIH) - a holding company based in St. Louis, Missouri. O'Brien is chairman of OIH which operates a number of businesses that explore, mine, and process refractory and ceramic raw materials, with its products going to more than 40 countries. The company faces a January 1, 2013 deadline to have a new health care policy in place for his 87 employees.
“We’re asking the Court to intervene right now because in a very short time our client, Frank O'Brien, will be faced with a choice no government has the right to impose on him: abandon his business, or abandon his beliefs,” said Francis J. Manion, Senior Counsel of the ACLJ who is representing O’Brien. “The HHS mandate is an unprecedented attack on the religious liberty of millions of Americans. It’s a clear violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment. We are asking the Court to intervene and enjoin the government from continuing to suppress the liberty of Frank O'Brien and his company to run their business in a manner consistent with their religious beliefs.”
In its motion asking the court to grant a preliminary injunction in the case, the ACLJ contends that O’Brien is likely to succeed on the merits of the lawsuit and urges the court to grant the business an exemption to the mandate while the case is litigated.
As Manion put it: “The same government that wants to coerce O'Brien into violating his beliefs is, at the same, exempting millions of other employers from complying with the mandate. This is not only unfair but unconstitutional as well."
“The government has no right to decide which religious believers are ‘religious’ enough to qualify for an exemption from the HHS mandate. Our constitution and laws do not give HHS Secretary Sebelius or any other official the power to start handing out ‘Seals of Government-Approved Godliness’.”
O'Brien, a Catholic, says his religious beliefs provide the framework for the operation of his businesses. The company website states the OIH mission “is to make our labor a pleasing offering to the Lord while enriching our families and society.” OIH’s statement of the company's values begins with the following: “Integrity. Our conduct is guided by the Golden Rule and the Ten Commandments. We will not discriminate based on anyone's personal belief system.”
Calling the mandate a “constitutional and statutory train wreck” – the ACLJ urges the court to grant preliminary injunctive relief “in order to allow O’Brien and OIH to be able to run their business in a manner consistent with the religious values and beliefs that have shaped the company from its start.”
The lawsuit names as defendants, the Department of Health and Human Services and Secretary Sebelius; the Department of the Treasury and Secretary Geithner; and the Department of Labor and Secretary Solis. The ACLJ is being assisted in this lawsuit by the Fidelis Center for Law and Policy, a Chicago-based educational and advocacy group.
Led by ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow, the ACLJ is based in Washington, D.C.