Oral Arguments Set for Sept. 26 in Case Challenging HHS Contraception Mandate

By Susan Jones | August 9, 2012 | 11:38am EDT

Protesters stand outside the Sandra Day O'Connor Federal Courthouse Friday, March 23, 2012 in Phoenix. during the Stand Up For Religious Freedom Rally. (AP Photo/Matt York)

(CNSNews.com) - A federal judge in Michigan has set Sept. 26 as the date to hear oral arguments in a case seeking to block the Obama administration's contraception mandate.

The case before Judge Robert Cleland of the Eastern District of Michigan -- a George H.W. Bush appointee -- was filed on May 6 by the Thomas More Law Center on behalf of Legatus, a group of Catholic business leaders, and Weingartz Supply Company, an Ann Arbor-based business.

The lawsuit aims to permanently block implementation of the Health and Human Services requirement that employees and individuals to obtain insurance coverage that covers contraception, sterilization, and abortion-producing drugs without any cost-sharing. The HHS mandate imposes clear violations of conscience on Americans who morally object to abortion and contraception, the Law Center said in a news release.

The lawsuit also challenges the constitutionality of the HHS mandate under the First Amendment rights to the free exercise of religion and free speech and the Establishment Clause.

Instead of taking up the temporary restraining order requested by the Law Center, Judge Cleland directed the plaintiffs to file a motion for a preliminary injunction by August 15, and he directed the government to file its response by August 29.

And following two telephone conferences initiated by the court, the government has agreed not to enforce the HHS regulation -- which took effect August 1 -- against the plaintiffs before January 1, 2013.

“Judge Cleland’s decision to expedite the briefing schedule and set a quick hearing date for oral arguments on our motion for a preliminary injunction against the Government was crucial," said Thomas More Law Center attorney Erin Mersino. "It best serves our goal of protecting the religious freedoms of our clients. Without the Court’s timely intervention, the HHS mandate effectively penalizes their free exercise of religion," he added.

The lawsuit names Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services; Hilda Solis, Secretary of the Department of Labor; Timothy Geithner, Secretary of the Department of Treasury; and their respective departments.

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