ST. LOUIS — A federal judge in St. Louis has dismissed a lawsuit challenging the contraception mandate of the federal health care law, one of nearly three dozen similar lawsuits filed across the country.
The lawsuit filed on behalf of Frank O'Brien and his company, O'Brien Industrial Holdings LLC of St. Louis, challenges the constitutionality of regulations in the health care law. Among other things, O'Brien, a devout Catholic, claimed the requirement that workplace health plans cover birth control infringes on his religious beliefs.
U.S. District Judge Carole Jackson, in a ruling late Friday, disagreed.
"This Court rejects the proposition that requiring indirect financial support of a practice, from which plaintiff himself abstains according to his religious principles, constitutes a substantial burden on plaintiff's religious exercise," Jackson wrote.
O'Brien Industrial Holdings is a secular company engaged in mining, processing and distributing refractory and ceramic materials and products. A statue of Jesus sits in the main lobby. Its statement of values includes references to the Golden Rule and the Ten Commandments.
The lawsuit said the contraception mandate forces the company to make a choice between complying with the law or facing "ruinous fines that would have a crippling impact on their ability to survive economically."
O'Brien's attorney, Frank Manion of the Washington-based American Center for Law and Justice, filed an appeal Monday.
Manion noted that President Barack Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius have made statements "recognizing that this has an impact on religious liberty and have talked about working with religious groups."
"So for the court to say it doesn't seems like a very flawed legal position," Manion said.
American Civil Liberties Union attorney Anthony Rothert said the ruling is believed to be the first on the merits of the contraceptive clause of the health care law. In another case in Colorado, a federal judge barred the government from penalizing a Colorado business for coverage that doesn't cover birth control, but that was a temporary injunction. The federal government has appealed that order.
Mandatory coverage for contraception has been among the most contentious issues of the health care law. In June, demonstrators gathered on Capitol Hill and in more than 100 places around the country in opposition to the mandate.
Several states have joined a lawsuit to try and block the part of the law that requires contraception coverage. The lawsuit argues that the rule violates the rights of employers that object to the use of contraceptives, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs.
Administration officials have said individual decisions about whether to use birth control, and what kind, remain in the hands of women and their doctors.