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Washington Examiner: Religious freedom lawsuits making their way through courts

The Oklahoman Editorial Published: January 2, 2013

AMID a virtual media blackout, dozens of religious freedom lawsuits against Obamacare are making their way through the courts. One of them suffered a small but noteworthy setback last week at the hands of Sonia Sotomayor.

The owners of Hobby Lobby, a craft store chain based in Oklahoma City, sued to overturn Obamacare's requirement that all employer-provided health insurance plans cover abortifacient drugs known as the morning-after pill. Their request for an emergency injunction to block this requirement went to Sotomayor, who turned them down.

“(W)hatever the ultimate merits of the applicants' claims, their entitlement to relief is not ‘indisputably clear,'” she wrote. “This Court has not previously addressed similar RFRA or free exercise claims brought by closely held for-profit corporations and their controlling shareholders alleging that the mandatory provision of certain employee benefits substantially burdens their exercise of religion.”

We beg to differ from this reasoning, especially given the frequent use of such injunctions when they suit the left's purposes. For one thing, it matters that the regulation in question would never have passed Congress as part of the Obamacare statute. Moreover, if it ultimately survives this court challenge, then a delay in putting this regulation into effect would not interfere in any serious way with the running of the broader Obamacare program.

Without an injunction, Obamacare's hasty implementation forces Hobby Lobby's owners to either violate their religious beliefs or pay up to $1.3 million per day in fines. The only other option would be to drop employee health coverage altogether — something many other businesses are already doing because of Obamacare's burdensome costs and regulations.

Sotomayor was not ruling on the merits of this case, but she has ruled on religious freedom previously. As a Second Circuit appellate judge in 2003, Sotomayor wrote an opinion stating that a Muslim inmate's First Amendment rights had been violated after he was denied a holiday feast. A federal district court had ruled that since this feast was not mandatory in Islam, it could rightfully be denied to the inmate.

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