With relatively little media fanfare, ObamaCare lost an important case in federal court on Monday – one that might well be discussed when the Supreme Court hears similar challenges to the contraception mandate. The New York Times reports that the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York has won an injunction “that blocks an Obama Administration requirement to provide contraceptive care to employees at its nonprofit affiliates:”
The ruling found that the regulation violated the religious freedom of the four nonprofit groups — two high schools and two health care systems — that are affiliated with the archdiocese but employ people of any faith. Under the Affordable Care Act, the nonprofit groups were required to provide the contraceptive coverage, authorize a third party to voluntarily pay for and provide the coverage, or pay steep fines.
The ruling, by Brian M. Cogan of Federal District Court in Brooklyn, found that forcing the groups to authorize a third party to provide contraceptive care still violated their religious beliefs even if they were not financially support contraception. Churches are already exempt from the mandate to provide contraceptive care.
I believe the Times writer meant to say that the Administration would violate religious conscience even if the Archdiocese was “not required to financially support contraception,” which was a key element of the government’s case. They were essentially trying to construct a system that would obscure the financial connection between health care provided by the plaintiffs, and the contraceptive benefits mandated under ObamaCare. The idea was that the Archdiocese would sign off on the benefits, but wouldn’t directly pay for them. It didn’t fly with the judge, which seems awfully significant.
Judge Cogan’s decision was the first permanent injunction against the regulations. A temporary injunction was issued in favor of a nonprofit Catholic organization in Pennsylvania.
The Archdiocese of New York, which sued along with the schools and hospitals, hailed the decision as a victory.
“The court has correctly cut through the artificial construct which essentially made faith-based organizations other than churches and other houses of worship second-class citizens with second-class First Amendment protections,” Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said in a statement.
Gabriel Malor at Ace of Spades has been justly hailed for writing an excellent breakdown of the decision. It’s well worth a read in full; most major media reports I’ve seen have greatly downplayed the severity of the spanking Judge Cogan administered to the Administration, particularly in the area of chastising the government for not really understanding how its own regulations work. Malor’s fourth and fifth points seem especially ominous for the future of ObamaCare – in essence, the law has already been so sliced, diced, shredded, modified, and delayed by regulatory and executive fiat that it’s hard to argue any portion of it retains a “compelling purpose.” One might say that since the Administration doesn’t take the Affordable Care Act seriously as “law,” judges won’t either.
There are many legal arguments swirling around the ObamaCare mandates, but their central logical principle is easy enough to understand: the State’s vision of our common social needs is far more important than anyone’s right to invoke their conscience and disobey. But the Affordable Care Act died and began decomposing the moment it was born. It only exists at all today because so much of it has been delayed, modified, and suspended. How can anyone seriously argue that the State’s vision, expressed through such a fractured lens, is more pure than the individual conscience of those who refuse to accept mandates that run contrary to their closely held beliefs?