In yet another legal blow to the president’s signature law, a federal judge rules that its contraceptive mandate does not trump Catholic groups’ right to exercise their religious liberty and conscience.
Religious liberty advocates and First Amendment defenders are cheering the stunning decision by U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan in New York that promises to speed up the unraveling of ObamaCare. Cogan not only found that the Health and Human Services (HHS) regulation that requires health insurance to include contraceptive coverage was constitutionally questionable, he actually forbade HHS from enforcing it.
As the New York Post details, in ruling on the lawsuit, Cogan decided that the plaintiffs “demonstrated that the mandate, despite accommodation, compels them to perform acts that are contrary to their religion. And there can be no doubt that the coercive pressure here is substantial.”
Most prior lawsuits have focused on the law’s constitutionality. Cogan’s ruling deals with its regulatory enforcement based on the phrase “the secretary shall determine” that appears in the Affordable Care Act no fewer than 1,005 times. This ruling essentially says that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius cannot enforce a mandate that Congress did not approve and that she cannot unilaterally decide what the First Amendment means or whether it is rendered irrelevant by her edicts.
In other words, regulations do not trump the Constitution.