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Judge indicates birth control mandate violates religious freedom

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted July 8, 2013

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A federal district court temporarily has blocked a private business from being subject to a health system reform law provision mandating insurance coverage of contraceptives. The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division, on June 25 granted Thomas R. Beckwith and his company, Beckwith Electric, a preliminary injunction against the mandate.

The Affordable Care Act rule requires all new insurance policies to include birth control coverage. Beckwith argued that the requirement violates his religious freedoms by forcing his company, which manufactures generators, to provide workers coverage for services that are against its moral beliefs. In his complaint, Beckwith said his ancestors arrived in the U.S. in 1626 to escape religious persecution in England, and that his family business strives to follow the values of the Southern Baptist faith.

In his decision, U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Kovachevich said the contraceptive mandate likely violates the religious freedom rights of the plaintiffs. “The First Amendment and [federal law] endow upon the citizens of the United States the unalienable right to exercise religion, and that right is not relinquished by efforts to engage in free enterprise under the corporate form,” the judge wrote (link).

The injunction will remain in effect until a final decision in the case is made.

Dozens of similar cases challenging the ACA’s contraceptive coverage mandate are making their way through lower courts, with judges reaching differing conclusions on the matter. The issue eventually could end up in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, legal analysts said.

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