When the Hobby Lobby case was decided last summer, the abortion industry raged because it knew that the decision by the Supreme Court meant that other lower court decisions would follow. That’s what happened in Michigan this week when the Thomas More Society won its case for Autocam Medical, LLC and its right to decline providing abortion or contraceptive group insurance coverage for employees.
The fight went on for three years, but in the end, the same judge that first ruled against Autocam ruled for it. This outcome was paved by the United States Supreme Court. The case went from MI to the Supreme Court and then got bumped back down to district court, where Judge Robert J. Jonker ruled in light of the high court’s decision that family-run Hobby Lobby was not required “to provide its employees with health coverage for contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and related patient education and counseling to which plaintiff objects on religious grounds.”
Autocam, owned by John Kennedy and other family members, “have always held that the government has no right to require that Autocam purchase group insurance coverage, providing its employees with morally objectionable contraceptives, including abortifacients and sterilization.”
In fact, before the governmental decree by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide such coverage, Autocam had designed an insurance plan for employees with Blue Cross/Blue Shield that upheld the family’s deep religious beliefs. Kennedy and his family are devout Roman Catholics who hold to the church’s teaching that contraception, abortion, and sterilization are wrong. The HHS requirement was a matter of religious freedom to this family-based company, and one they considered “gravely wrong.”
Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society, commented:
Coercing citizens to violate their conscientious religious beliefs makes a mockery of the very notion of religious freedom. We applaud this decision which honors our client’s constitutional rights under the First Amendment as well as its statutory rights under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and we thank Professor Patrick T. Gillen of Ave Maria Law School, our special counsel, for his help in winning this splendid result for our client, one that sets another strong precedent for the free exercise of religious faith on the part of all American citizens.
For Kennedy and his family, it’s a ruling that brings peace of mind and heart; this ruling allows them to honor God and their Catholic faith while still providing medically necessary care to their employees.
January 5, 2015: Injunction and Judgment from the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan Southern Division.
August 4, 2014: United States Supreme Court’s remand order sending the Autocam case back to the lower federal courts.