Same Judge Who Turned Hobby Lobby Down, Now Grants Them a Stay on HHS Mandate

I’ve read the news reports on several outlets, and I’m not exactly sure what the judge did, except that it’s clear that he stopped the government from dropping the guillotine on Hobby Lobby next month.

The draconian HHS Mandate, which is scheduled to go into effect in August, would probably, in the judge’s own words, “cut the legs from under” any “individual or corporation” who is so bold as to say “no” to it. Judge Joe Heaton ruled that Hobby Lobby is exempt from compliance with the HHS Mandate, at least until higher courts rule in the matter. He also put the case on hold until October 1 to give the Obama administration time to respond.

What does this mean?

Well, it means that the government can’t start putting Hobby Lobby out of business because it won’t pay for abortifacients for its employees, at least not next month.

It also gives the Obama administration a bloody nose. The administration originally contended that First Amendment protections of the free exercise of religion only applied to churches. Then, when it began losing in court, the administration widened that out to include direct affiliates of churches. The administration has not budged in its position that the First Amendment protection of the free exercise of religion does not apply to you, me or any other individual.

I think this latest ruling puts other judges on the hot seat. Are they going to allow corporations and individuals to go down the tubes next month, or are they going to step up and grant similar stays for everyone?

One interesting fact: Judge Joe Heaton is the same judge who denied a somewhat similar request by Hobby Lobby in November 2012. His reasoning then read like Obama administration boilerplate.

What has happened to change his mind?

It may be that the reasoning of other justices who did not agree with him made him re-think the issue. It may also be that he finally wised up to the fact that the HHS Mandate is a challenge to the Constitution itself. It may also be that he came to understand what I saw when I first read about the nascent HHS Mandate months before it was promulgated: This thing has the makings of a Constitutional crisis of a magnitude not seen in this country since the Civil War.

There has been a huge overstepping of individual liberties in the culture wars lately. Whether the issue is abortion or gay marriage, those who promote these positions are not satisfied with laws that allow them to do what they want. They are pushing hard for laws that force other people to participate in doing it with them.

The HHS Mandate, by directly targeting the Church itself, along with its many ministries, stepped up the fight and made it something that was impossible to ignore. The days of going along to get along ended for believers in religious liberty and freedom of conscience when President Obama signed that thing.

It’s possible Judge Heaton got his wits together and realized the magnitude of what he was dealing with. It’s also possible that Hobby Lobby’s lawyers wrote a better brief this time around.

I don’t know.

I do know that this ruling today is a good and hopeful one for all of us who hold our Constitutional liberties dear.

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  • Dale

    Judge Heaton seemed to have acceded to the wishes of the appellate court, but did so under protest.

    In remarks from the bench on Friday, Heaton said he did not agree with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals assertion that the religious freedom of for-profit corporations is protected under the U.S. Constitution and called the appellate court’s view on corporations an “exotic definition of personhood.”

    “We are proceeding on the basis of political fiction that corporations have the right to exercise freedom of religion,” Heaton said.

    • hamiltonr

      That’s interesting Dale. Thanks for digging it up and sharing it.

      • YesDavisIsMyFirstName

        Removed comment – moved to “Sisters of Life”

        • hamiltonr

          Davis, this is interesting, but it’s too far back in the blog’s posts for other people to get into it.

          Why don’t you post it on the post I did about the Sisters of Life? It’s at least somewhat on topic there. I’m probably not going to answer you in depth, btw. But I will answer and open it up for further discussion. R

          • YesDavisIsMyFirstName

            cool thanks. I’ll remove it here, and repost on that article. I only wanted to put in further back as I know it can be a sensitive topic, and I didn’t want to hijack any other discussions that were taking place.

    • FW Ken

      That makes certain sense if you are talking about publicly held corporations. Privately held corporations are private, and a compelling community interest would be necessary to violate the rights of the owners.

  • Bill S

    “The administration has not budged in its position that the First Amendment protection of the free exercise of religion does not apply to you, me or any other individual.”

    Really? Is that what the mandate means? The First Amendment doesn’t apply to you or me?

    • FW Ken

      Not if you own a business.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        Not even if you are walking down the street, if the precedent is allowed to be set.

        What will really be interesting will be the first court case against practicing atheism in public.