A judge for the US District Court for the District of Colorado [official website] on Friday issued an injunction [order, PDF] barring the federal government from enforcing its controversial employer insurance mandate against a Colorado business owned by a Catholic family. The mandate [HHS press release], issued by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) [official website], was added to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) [text] and requires nearly all health insurance plans to cover all FDA-approved drugs, including contraception, sterilization and Plan-B-type drugs, with a narrow exception for some religious institutions. The exception only applies to organizations whose mission is strictly religious in nature and thus will not exempt Catholic schools, hospitals or universities. Judge John Kane on Friday granted a request by the plaintiffs to block enforcement of the mandate against their family-owned heating and ventilation business due to family religious beliefs. The requirement was scheduled to go into effect on August 1. In his decision, Kane ruled that the plaintiffs' interest in protecting their religious freedom outweighs the state's interest in enforcing the law uniformly.
The HHS mandate has raised concerns in religiously affiliated institutions across the country. There are currently 24 separate lawsuits challenging the mandate. Last week, the Thomas More Law Center filed a motion [JURIST report] in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan asking the court to block the mandate before it goes into effect on August 1. Earlier this month, Wheaton College [official website], a Christian institution in Illinois, filed a lawsuit [press release] challenging the HHS mandate. In May, more than 40 Catholic dioceses and other Catholic institutions around the US filed lawsuits [JURIST report] against the Obama administration alleging the mandate violated their right to religious freedom. In a statement, the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, said that the lawsuit was not about access to contraception, but rather "it is about whether the government may force religious institutions and individuals to facilitate and fund services which violate their religious beliefs."