With only hours to spare, Federal District Judge Stephen J. Murphy, IIIof the Eastern District of Michigan issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) blocking the Obama Administration from enforcing the HHS Mandate. The Mandate requires non-profit organizations to provide abortifacient and contraception insurance coverage contrary to their religious beliefs under the Affordable Care Act.
Judge Murphy entered the Temporary Restraining Order on December 31, 2013, just hours before the HHS Mandate was going into effect on New Year’s Day. Judge Murphy will hold a hearing January 8, 2014 to determine whether to convert the temporary restraining order to a preliminary injunction.
The Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, filed the motion for a TRO on December 23, 2013 on behalf of five nonprofit organizations: the Ave Maria Foundation, Ave Maria Communications, Domino’s Farms Petting Farm, Rhodora J. Donahue Academy Inc., and the Thomas More Law Center, all founded by Catholic philanthropist Tom Monaghan.
“We are delighted with Judge Murphy’s ruling and his timely action in this case,” said TMLC attorney, Erin Mersino, who is handling the case. “Without the TRO, all five entities would have been forced to comply with the HHS Mandate beginning yesterday. Without injunctive relief, Christian faith would have been trampled upon because the Mandate forces employers to act directly contrary to their faith.”
Mersino is TMLC’s principal attorney representing over a dozen plaintiffs in challenges to the HHS Mandate. This latest case, in which the TRO was obtained, was filed on December 20, 2013. The Plaintiffs at first sought to be included in an HHS challenge that was already pending before Judge Lawrence Zatkoff. That request was denied on December 20, 2013, and hours later on that same day, Mersino filed TMLC’s newest case. Due to the late date, Plaintiffs requested injunctive relief on an emergency basis because the HHS Mandate would go into effect beginning on January 1, 2014.
The purpose of TMLC’s latest lawsuit is to seek a court ruling that permanently blocks the implementation of the HHS Mandate requiring employers and individuals to obtain insurance coverage for abortions and contraception on the grounds that it imposes clear violations of conscience on Americans who morally object to abortion and contraception.
The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the HHS Mandate under the First Amendment rights to the Free Exercise of Religion and Free Speech and the Establishment Clause. It also claims that the HHS Mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Administrative Procedure Act enacted by Congress.
Named as Defendants in the lawsuit are Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the of the Department of Health and Human Services; Thomas Perez, Secretary of the Department of Labor; Jack Lew, Secretary of the Department of the Treasury; and their respective departments.