Late Wednesday, Michigan Federal District Court Judge Robert H. Cleland ruled in favor of family-owned lawn and supply store Weingartz Supply Company and its owner, Daniel Weingartz. Colorado District Court Judge John L. Kanne granted a similar request on behalf of Hercules Industries this past summer.
Weingartz Supply and its owner objected to the mandate’s requirement that they provide their employees abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraceptives in violation of the owner’s religious beliefs or risk crippling fines.
Mr. Weingartz is committed to operating the family business in a manner compatible with his faith. Because the company is a private, for-profit family business, it is excluded from the mandate’s narrow religious exemption and, like all non-religious employers, is ineligible for a year-long “safe-harbor” that simply delays the religious freedom violations caused by the mandate. He sought the emergency injunction to ensure that the company could continue to provide health coverage for its employees while the litigation continues.
Weighing the “unquestionable […] irreparable injury” posted by “the loss of First Amendment freedoms, for even minimal periods of time,” Judge Cleland held that the government’s interest implementing the statute must yield to “the risk presented here of substantially infringing [Weingartz’s] sincere exercise of religious beliefs.”
If the company had been unsuccessful in staying enforcement of the mandate against it, it would have faced a fine of $100 per day for each of its 170 employees for non-compliance with the mandate. Alternatively, it could have opted to drop coverage for its employees altogether and face the lesser, though not insubstantial, fine of approximately $2,000 per employee per year.
The Weingartz family’s plight is an example of the coercive “incentives” built into Obamacare, which has concentrated broad powers in the hands of the federal government—a drastic and dangerous experiment. This gross government overreach even extends to commandeering religious employers into directly paying for drugs and services that violate their faith despite conscientious objections.
This litigation—one of the nearly 40 cases involving more than 100 plaintiffs—is also another telling example of the Administration’s cramped view of religious liberty. In the Administration’s view, business owners must abandon their religious and moral convictions as a condition of participating in commerce. Accepting the Administration’s logic would limit the application of religious freedom to individuals alone acting within their houses of worship on weekends. It would reduce the free exercise of religion to “freedom of worship,” restricting religious believers’ ability to live out their faiths in their day-to-day lives.
The case is another reminder of the necessity of repealing Obamacare and the assault on religious freedom and limited government it represents.
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