The pizza moguls of America have been on President Obama's case as of late. First Papa John's CEO declared that prices at his restaurant chain would rise under the weight of Obamacare. Then on Friday the founder of Domino's Pizza filed a lawsuit against the federal government, claiming -- like over 40 other lawsuits -- that the mandatory free contraception coverage in the health care law violates religious freedom.
Thomas Monaghan, the 75-year-old founder of Domino's Pizza and a devout Catholic, is suing three government agencies and their directors, alleging that the birth control provision in the Affordable Care Act "force[s] individuals to violate their deepest held religious beliefs," the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court, claims that the new law "attacks and desecrates a foremost tenet of the Catholic Church," which considers contraception "a grave sin." It adds that the mandate compels insurance issuers to cover the morning-after pill, "despite their known abortifacient mechanisms of action."
Monaghan no longer owns Domino's Pizza; he sold the company in 1998. His lawsuit is on behalf of another company, Domino's Farms Corp., which runs an office complex. The lawsuit names the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the Treasury Department as defendants, as well as their three heads, Kathleen Sebelius, Hilda Solis and Timothy Geithner.
"This is something that strikes at the heart of who Mr. Monaghan is," said Richard Thompson, the president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, a conservative Christian legal nonprofit founded by Monaghan in 1999, which is providing the legal support for the case.
Monaghan has been one of the greatest philanthropists to Catholic causes in American history. In addition to the Thomas More Law Center, he has also founded a Catholic radio station, a fully-accredited Catholic law school, an organization for Catholic business leaders, and a private Catholic university in southwest Florida, with a satellite campus in Nicaragua.
he built himself and that its website says "has been designed as a real hometown." The university filed a federal suit challenging the contraception provision back in February.
Thompson said that Monaghan felt it was "necessary for him to speak out" on the health care law rule, although if his lawsuit fails, he will still provide insurance to his 50 or so employees.
"He understands and believes that his Christian faith and Christian stewardship requires that he take care of employees and their families with health insurance," Thompson said.
Is The Contraception Mandate Constitutional?
Lawsuits pending across the country challenge the constitutionality of the contraception mandate, which requires that employers with 50 or more full-time employees offer all federally approved forms of contraception and sterilization in their insurance policies for free or face stringent penalties. As of earlier this month, 41 lawsuits had been filed, reported The Washington Times. Monaghan's suit makes 42.
Since 2000, companies have been required to offer birth control to their employees if their insurance provided for other prescription drugs. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that denying contraception qualified as discrimination "on the basis of a woman's ability to become pregnant," and so violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
This is the second lawsuit that the Thomas More Law Center has filed challenging the birth control provision. In the first case, the judge granted the plaintiff, the Weingartz Supply Company, a preliminary injunction in October, effectively blocking the enforcement of the mandate.
"This is not only a victory for our clients, but for religious freedom," said lead counsel Erin Mersino at the time. Mersino is also heading this second suit.
"The federal government says we need this law so that women have an equal opportunity in the workforce, so they can choose if and when they have children," said Thompson. But Mersino managed that legal victory, he points out, while seven-and-a-half months pregnant.
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