(CNSNews.com) – Following on yesterday’s 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that Hobby Lobby can continue its lawsuit against the Obama administration’s contraception mandate on religious grounds, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma ruled today that the federal government must halt all enforcement of the mandate (and related financial penalties) against the Christian-based company.
Hobby Lobby and sister company Mardel are suing the Department of Health and Human Services and Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, arguing that to force the company to pay for health insurance that must offer abortion-inducing drugs, as well as sterilization and contraception, is a violation of its religious liberty.
In his order issued on Friday, U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton said the “court concludes plaintiffs [Hobby Lobby] have made a sufficient showing to warrant the issuance of a temporary restraining order in the circumstances existing here.”
“Accordingly, the defendants [Sebelius and HHS], their agents, officers, and employees are temporarily ENJOINED and RESTRAINED from any effort to apply or enforce, as to plaintiffs, the substantive requirements imposed” by the mandate,” said the judge’s order.
In a press release, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents Hobby Lobby, said, “Today, for the first time, a federal court has ordered the government not to enforce the HHS abortion-drug mandate against Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. The ruling comes just one day after a dramatic 168-page opinion from the en banc 10th Circuit recognizing that business owners have religious liberty rights. This was the first definitive federal appellate ruling against the HHS mandate.”
“Hobby Lobby and the Green family faced the terrible choice of violating their faith or paying massive fines starting this Monday morning,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel with the Becket Fund. “We are delighted that both the 10th Circuit and the district court have spared them from this unjust burden on their religious freedom.”
“In its landmark opinion yesterday, the 10th Circuit majority found that ‘no one’ – not even the government – ‘disputes the sincerity of Hobby Lobby’s religious beliefs,’” reads the press release. “The court ruled that denying them the protection of federal law just because they are a profit-making business ‘would conflict with the Supreme Court’s free exercise precedent.’”
Further proceedings in the case are scheduled for July 19, 2013, in Oklahoma City.