Federal Appeals Court Frustratingly Blocks Contraceptive Mandate in Illinois Case

Even after Justice Sotomayor performed a holiday miracle by waving her gavel at a grey flannel sky and causing sundry forms of contraception to snow down onto every tax-exempt piece of Catholic real estate in the land (that's how pop-up books in the future will tell it, so you better get on board with the legend now), peeps across the U.S. are still giving the 2010 health-care law's contraception mandate a hard time. A lot of peeps. Over 40 lawsuits have been filed challenging the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's requirement that for-profit companies offer workers insurance to cover some form of contraception, and, on Friday, a divided federal appeals court sided with an Illinois employer by temporarily blocking the U.S. government from requiring the employer to follow the mandate.

Most notable about the appeals court's 2-1 decision is that it suggests, according to Reuters' Jonathan Stempel, that Illinois employers Cyril and Jane Korte, who own the construction firm Korte & Luitjohan Contractors, might eventually win out in challenging the contraception mandate. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled to temporarily block enforcement of the mandate against people who contended, as the Kortes' lawyer Edward White successfully did, that it violates their faith (the Kortes are Catholic).

With their ardent Catholicism/slip n' slide fund in jeopardy, the Kortes eagerly sought to get rid of a health insurance plan for the 20 non-unionized employees of Korte & Luitjohan Contractors that included contraception coverage. Eeep! What would the Pontiff think if ever he had time to stop casting the spells that keep all the demons and vampires locked deep in the Roman catacombs from invading the human world? He'd be upset, of course — I mean, probably not that upset because the demon/vampire spellcasting is priority number uno and making sure that an Illinois contracting company can cut some business expenses by dropping contraception coverage from its healthcare plan is like priority number novantotto, right after making sure his mitre is freshly starched.

The 7th Circuit majority said, in issuing an injunction to prevent the U.S. government from forcing the Kortes' pious hands from doling out birth control pills, that the Kortes made a pretty convincing case that the contraception mandate violates the federal Religious Freedom Act, and that the federal government had not yet justified the "substantial burden" the mandate places on the Kortes' free religious exercise. Not only did the court seem to think that the Kortes' liturgical calisthenics would be threatened by the mandate, but it also said that the couple had indeed "established irreparable harm," since, without an injunction, they'd have to choose between violating the tenets of their faith or facing financial penalties.

But hey, nobody said saving one's immortal soul from spooky Catholic hell was easy, or, in this case, cheap — maybe the Kortes should think of the penalties they'd have to pay if they don't provide their employees with a health plan that includes contraception as indulgences. That was a Catholic thing, right?

Contraception mandate in health-care law blocked in Illinois case [Reuters via MSNBC]

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