Court gives Catholic-owned Autocam a 'Hobby Lobby exemption' from abortion pill mandate

by Vanessa Rodriguez |

KENTWOOD, Mich. (Christian Examiner) -- The family-owned Michigan manufacturer Autocam won "permanent protection" in federal court Monday, exempting the automaker from having to pay for abortion pills as part of the contraceptive coverage mandate in the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The controversial requirement commonly called the "abortion pill mandate," forces companies to provide group insurance coverage that included certain contraceptive methods, abortifacient drugs, that were against its Catholic owners' religious beliefs.

Hobby Lobby, also a Christian-owned company, set a precedence for such exemptions with its victory with the U.S. Supreme Court last June.

When the lawsuit was first filed in 2013, Judge Robert J. Jonker ruled against Autocam, whose devoutly Catholic owners, including CEO John Kennedy, morally objected to providing abortifacient drugs as part of the contraception coverage it provided to employees. The Thomas More Society, the Chicago-based public interest law firm which represented Autocam, then petitioned the U. S. Supreme Court to hear the case.

In June, however, the Supreme Court ruled in a similar case involving Hobby Lobby and exempted this Christian-owned company from having to provide "abortion pills" among the contraceptives provided in the healthcare coverage it offered employees. Hobby Lobby's win sent the Autocam case back to the lower jury panel, the Western Michigan District Court, where Jonker reversed his initial ruling and cleared Autocam from any penalties it had faced for not previously providing the coverage.

The Thomas More Society maintained throughout the lawsuit that the Obamacare HHS mandate caused the Kennedy family to go against their religious convictions.

"Coercing citizens to violate their conscientious religious beliefs makes a mockery of the very notion of religious freedom," said Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society in a press release.

"We applaud this decision which honors our client's constitutional rights under the First Amendment as well as its statutory rights under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act."

According to court filings, "by virtue of their religious obligation to treat workers well," Autocam provides workers with a healthcare benefits plan "including up to $1,500 towards a Health Savings Account (which employees are free to use for any lawful purpose)." The petition notes that "by virtue of their religious obligation to avoid material cooperation with acts believed to be morally wrong," the company has "never provided coverage or payments for abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptive drugs or devices, or sterilization."

RELATED INFORMATION:

Answers about Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the landmark Supreme Court case