DETROIT, MI – On Friday, September 28, 2012, Federal District Judge Robert H. Cleland, of the Eastern District of Michigan, heard oral arguments in Thomas More Law Center’s (TMLC) motion for Preliminary Injunction to stop implementation of the HHS mandate. Judge Cleland heard arguments and fully engaged attorneys on both sides in the 2.5 hour long hearing.
TMLC’s Lead Counsel Erin Mersino presented TMLC’s argument on behalf of Plaintiffs, Legatus, Weingartz Supply, Inc., and its owner and President Dan Weingartz. Ethan Davis, attorney for U. S. Department of Justice, gave the Government’s argument.
TMLC attorney Erin Mersino presented a forceful argument supporting Plaintiffs’ claims that the HHS Mandate violates their religious freedom. Mersino noted, “On January 1st, our clients will have 2 choices: violate the law and incur steep penalties or violate their conscience. We are hopeful that the Court will render a decision that protects religious freedom and our rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.”
The Government attorney, on the other hand, argued that because Weingartz was a secular corporation it had no constitutional right to free exercise of religion or free speech. The Government also contended that the organization Legatus lacked standing, as the group was a non-profit company potentially eligible for a one year safe-harbor from the law.
Judge Cleland told both sides that whatever ruling he grants, the case will continue to be litigated. He pressed the Government’s attorney as to whether or not the Plaintiffs in their motion for preliminary injunction faced ‘imminent harm’. Judge Cleland noted that come January 1, 2013 “the axe is going to fall on Weingartz,” referring to the fact that after January 1, 2013 Weingartz will be subject to fines of $2,000 per employee, which for Weingartz amounts to a fine of $340,000 annually.
TMLC’s lawsuit challenging the HHS mandate was filed on May 6, 2012 on behalf of Legatus, the Nation’s largest organization of top Catholic business leaders, and the Michigan-based Weingartz Supply Company, and its president Daniel Weingartz. Named in the lawsuit were Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services; Hilda Solis, Secretary of the Department of Labor; Timothy Geithner, Secretary of the Department of Treasury; and their respective departments.
TMLC’s lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the HHS Mandate under the First Amendment, specifically the Free Exercise of Religion and Free Speech clauses. It also claims that the HHS Mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 and the Administrative Procedure Act.
In another case decided on Friday, Missouri federal district court, Judge Carol E. Jackson (a President George H. W. Bush appointee) handed down an opinion rejecting a Missouri company’s (O’Brien Industrial Holdings, OIH) challenge to the contraceptive challenge. The Missouri court found that the HHS Mandate was a law of “general applicability”— a holding that is contrary to the numerous exemptions in the mandate that allow employers exemptions and waivers based upon arbitrary and non-religious reasons.