Schuette Joins Michigan Company in Fight To Protect Religious Freedom

Contact: Joy Yearout 517-373-8060

   September 27, 2012

            LANSING - Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced he has filed an amicus brief supporting a lawsuit filed by Michigan-based Weingartz Supply Company and Legatus, an organization of Catholic business owners, to defend religious liberty and challenge the unconstitutional Obama administration mandate which forces religious employers to violate their religious and faith-based beliefs by providing insurance plans that cover services, including abortion-inducing drugs, that conflict with those beliefs.  


"Religious liberty is America's first freedom," said Schuette.  "Any rule, regulation or law that forces American employers to violate their free exercise of religion is a flat-out violation of the First Amendment and federal law, specifically the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.


"In addition to impacting religious schools and hospitals, this unconstitutional mandate will force private sector job-providers across America to violate their conscience.  The First Amendment applies to everyone, and I will continue to defend religious liberty for all, not just the chosen few dictated by the federal government."


The lawsuit was filed by the Michigan family-owned Weingartz Supply Company and Legatus in response to Obamacare regulations that force thousands of religious organizations and private sector employers to violate their deepest beliefs by mandating what organizations and companies must include in their employee health insurance plans, or face steep government fines.  Although the Obama administration has provided exemptions for other groups, including many large corporations, it has persistently refused to give the same accommodation to employers exercising their First Amendment freedoms.  The case is scheduled for a hearing in Detroit at 9:30 a.m. on September 28, 2012 before U.S. District Court Judge Robert Cleland.

Schuette noted that Michigan continues its leadership in organizing the multi-state effort to support the Franciscan University of Steubenville and the Michigan Catholic Conference in their challenge to the onerous administrative health care regulationsSchuette's office will coordinate the drafting and filing of a multi-state amicus brief in defense of religious liberty for this case. 

Michigan has also joined six states to file their own lawsuit, which has been appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, after a lower court declined to hear the case.  Michigan is joined in the effort by Florida, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas.  Also joining the litigation are The Catholic Mutual Relief Society of America, Catholic Social Services, and two private citizens.


On January 20, 2012, the Obama Administration announced that it would not change its mandate forcing religious employers to purchase and provide health care services that violate their religious beliefs and moral convictions.  The decision was announced in spite of concerns expressed by a wide spectrum of religious leaders and employers.


Schuette's efforts to challenge the unconstitutional Obamacare mandate are the latest steps to defend religious liberty for Michigan citizens:


·         In 2011, Schuette filed an amicus brief on behalf of eight states in support of religious liberty in a significant case involving the right of religious organizations to manage their religious employees without government interference.  In January 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously (9-0) agreed with Schuette and upheld the right of religious organizations to manage their religious employees without government interference in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission et al


·         Schuette also filed an amicus brief in support of Julea Ward, a former Eastern Michigan University student who is suing the university in federal court for violating her constitutional rights after she was dismissed from a graduate counseling program due to her religious beliefs.  On January 27, 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th District agreed with Schuette that Ward had a right to trial and reversed the lower court ruling dismissing her case. 


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