"There is no, 'Trust us, changes are coming' clause in the Constitution," U.S. District Court Judge Brian Cogan wrote in his ruling against President Obama's Department of Health and Human Services Wednesday. "To the contrary, the Bill of Rights itself, and the First Amendment in particular, reflect a degree of skepticism towards governmental self-restraint and self-correction."
Unfortunately, Obama and his liberal allies have not shown an ounce of skepticism toward government since they assumed power almost four years ago. By denying the Obama administration's motion to dismiss a lawsuit by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York (and two other affiliated organizations) challenging the Obamacare requirement that all employers provide abortifacient contraceptives on demand, America's third branch of government scored a major victory for the First Amendment and civil society.
The Archdiocese's suit against HHS stems from the Obamacare mandate that all employers provide their employees with government-approved health insurance coverage or else pay large fines. In February of this year, HHS finalized regulations requiring all health plans to cover "the full range of Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods," including emergency contraceptives that end pregnancies after conception instead of merely preventing them.
Insurers and self-insuring employers who fail to cover these drugs can be assessed large fines of $100 per employee per day -- this would come to $3.65 million per year for a self-insuring Catholic hospital that has 100 employees, according to a report from the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Catholic organizations such as co-plaintiff ArchCare, which provides health care to the poor, faced a choice: Act in direct violation of your religious beliefs, or be fined and taxed out of existence by Obama's HHS. Instead, they chose to defend their First Amendment rights in federal court.
HHS argued that the Catholics challenging the mandate had no standing to sue, since almost immediately after HHS issued their its insurance definition regulation, it announced its intention to issue a second regulation that would accommodate religious organizations. Other federal judges have cited the promise to issue a second regulation mitigating the first as reason enough to dismiss religious organizations' lawsuits against the abortion mandate. But Judge Cogan said that time is over.
"The [rule] was announced nearly 10 months ago, Cogan wrote. "In that time, the Departments have had ample opportunity to enact a meaningful change to the Coverage Mandate. The fact that they have not further suggests the likelihood of injuries to plaintiffs."
And suffer injuries the religious plaintiffs have. As Cogan noted, "Plaintiffs here have demonstrated how enormous changes to their plans required by the Coverage Mandate currently exacerbate their preparation costs. They have also demonstrated that the imminent operation of the Coverage Mandate has already caused them to divert funds from their ministries."
Unfortunately, diverting funds from ministries may be exactly what Obama wants. One of the major goals of the progressive movement is to replace all voluntary coordination between free individuals -- especially faith-based organizations -- with the coercive power of the state. Obamacare, with all its individual and employer mandates, is a significant advance toward this goal.
The Supreme Court may have declined to repeal Obamacare in its entirety this past summer, but the law includes so many infringements on constitutionally protected liberties that lower courts will be striking down bits and pieces of it for years to come.