A federal court Thursday gave Tom Monaghan, founder of Domino's Pizza, a reprieve from President Obama's health care contraceptive mandate, ruling the prominent Catholic does not have to provide coverage for his current company's employees at an office park in Michigan.
Mr. Monaghan, who sold Domino's Pizza Inc. in 1998 and now runs Domino's Farms — a business campus in Ann Arbor that includes a Catholic bookstore and chapel — is among more than a dozen corporate owners who have obtained temporary relief from the Obama administration's ruling that all companies provide insurance that covers contraceptives as essential services.
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, which ruled in Mr. Monaghan's favor, harkened back to the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision that said corporations have First Amendment speech rights, and said if that's true, then a business can also have a religious viewpoint.
"The court sees no reason why a corporation cannot support a particular religious viewpoint by using corporate funds to support that viewpoint," Judge Lawrence P. Zatkoff wrote. "As such, the court finds that [Domino's Farms] is merely the instrument through and by which Monaghan expresses his religious beliefs."
The Obama administration is locked in similar legal disputes with a bevy of religious nonprofits and corporate owners who object to contraception coverage as part of their employer-based health plans.
Courts have granted injunctions to 13 corporations that object to the mandate, but denied relief to five, according the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. The split includes disagreement among the federal circuit courts, indicating the issue may be ripe for consideration by the Supreme Court.
Three additional corporations have filed lawsuits, although the courts have not weighed in on their claims, according to the fund.
Supporters of the contraception mandate say it promotes women's reproductive health, particularly among those who struggle to afford contraception. As a legal matter, they said corporate owners are not free to impose their religious beliefs on their employees, and the plaintiffs would never associate themselves with their corporation if they were being sued for a tort claim or other cause of action.
Objectors to the mandate say they are being forced to choose between their deeply held beliefs and their employees' health coverage. If they chose to flout the mandate, they would be subject to hefty fines that could put them out of business.
A trio of House Republicans led by Rep. Diane Black of Tennessee, introduced legislation this month that would exempt any employers who object to the contraception mandate if it violates their conscience. The lawmakers and recent lawsuits have highlighted "morning-after" pills such as Plan B and Ella as particularly objectionable, since they consider them tantamount to abortion.
Mr. Obama agreed to keep abortion services out of his signature law in the heated debate leading to its passage in March 2010, and some view emergency contraception as a violation of that promise.
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