A federal judge has ruled in favor of a Missouri lawmaker who cited religious objections while challenging the inclusion of birth control coverage in his government-provided health insurance.
State Sen. Paul Wieland said Friday that the ruling , while applying only to his family, could serve as a guide for others seeking to challenge the application of a section of President Barack Obama’s health care law that requires insurers to include coverage of contraceptives.
“I think this sets a precedent, so that if anybody else has religious convictions and they find these drugs offensive … they can use this as a court case to base their claims on,” Wieland said in a phone interview while traveling back from Cleveland, where he was a delegate at the Republican National Convention.
The federal attorney who defended the case on behalf of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services referred a reporter to a spokeswoman for the U.S. Justice Department, who said Friday night that the agency is reviewing the ruling and had no further comment about whether it would appeal.
The lawsuit by Wieland and his wife, Teresa, who are Roman Catholics, asserted that it violates their religious beliefs to include contraception coverage in the state health insurance plan that he participates in as a lawmaker. The insurance plan also covers their three daughters.
The state of Missouri used to provide employees the option of declining contraceptive coverage. But that changed following a 2013 state court ruling which said the requirements of federal Affordable Care Act superseded a previous state law.
In a ruling Thursday siding with the Wielands, U.S. District Judge Jean Hamilton cited the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which says government shall not “substantially burden” a person’s exercise of religion unless by the least restrictive means to further a compelling government interest.
The judge said the coverage mandate violates that standard, because it didn’t offer a less-restrictive alternative such as letting the Wielands opt out of the contraception coverage.
Under the coverage mandate, “the only way plaintiffs can comply with their religious conscience is by dropping their insurance altogether, which would result in them foregoing a valuable job benefit; in the assessment of thousands of dollars per year in fines pursuant to the individual mandate; … and in leaving their daughters without health insurance,” Hamilton wrote in the ruling.
The judge originally had dismissed the Wielands’ lawsuit in October 2013, but a federal appeals court panel sent it back for reconsideration in July 2015. During appeals court arguments, an attorney for the Wielands cited the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case allowing private companies with religious objections to opt out of the contraceptive requirement.
Wieland said he doesn’t expect the latest ruling to be the end of the legal fight.
“I’m afraid the federal government is probably going to appeal, and this is just one step in the process,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
All that is inefficient, cruel, corrupt, unjust, despotic and evil about big government is found in the Federal Government bureaucracy. Shame on the selfish, self-righteous, narcissistic, operatives who are paid “blood money” to make this happen.
A small victory against this fascist government as they take steps to force Americans to acquiesce to their socialist regulations. Soon this backwards “administration” will be gone, we hope!
If/when Trump becomes president, i’m certain he’ll work tirelessly to completely eliminate this tyrannical, Unconstitutional “law,” at which point this ruling will be moot.
One hopes that President Trump will also eliminate all the unconstitutional “fines” for not participating in a clearly Unconstitutional program, as well…perhaps even retroactively.
i remember a previous poster here mentioning that when he had an emergency situation and went to a hospital, he paid the entire 10K+ bill by himself – then was hit with a huge fine by the IR*S, too! Screw those a-holes.
Really people? If you do not wish to use birth control, don’t. State insurance is a blanket policy for all participants…not just those with religious convictions.
“All things are permissible, but not all things are good for us”
People who go overboard (when they want their convictions to be the only right conviction) with their personal convictions make the group they claim to be a part of look bad.
I am a christian. I do not believe abortion should be used as birth control. I do believe in preventing pregnancy with birth control. Pills, timing, rubbers. I do believe it is my job to live out my choices the best i can and not tell everyone else what they can and cannot do.(crime is a whole ‘nother story) I am free to exercise my options. I am glad I have options…..that is called freedom.
Justin W says
Obamacare should continue to be challenged in the court system. Obama and the Democrats wanted a health care system that was heavy on government bureaucracy. Tying up the court system with the “Affordable” Care Act would be a good place to start.
President Obama and Hillary Clinton both claim to be disciples of Saul Alinsky and his ideas encouraging activism. We should turn up the heat on Obamacare in the form of citizen activism. We should push against this horrible law until it is finally repealed and replaced with something that will provide truly affordable health care without assaulting our values.
steve johnson says
“The state of Missouri used to provide employees the option of declining contraceptive coverage.”
So, based on the above that A-Hole Senator had the choice to NOT use contraception but he also
decided to force (against our Constitution. “Separation of church & state”) ALL others to pursue
his RELIGIOUS sexual beliefs.
I hope his daughters become pregnant out of wedlock!!
The phrase “separation of church and state” does not appear in the Constitution.
That comes from a letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote to a baptist church back in the day.
You call that religious freedom? Contraception should not be a religious issue. Any religious group, that regards contraception as some kind of sin, is worse than a racist. What is wrong with this federal judge to rule in favor of this bigot?
Arthur Hartsock says
The First Amendment also protects your personal beliefs, Steve. Maybe in a few years you’ll be a bit wiser and appreciate our Founding Fathers’ gift to you and all Americans.