Johnson Welded Products, Inc., et al. v. Kathleen Sibelius, et al.

America was founded on religious freedom, yet the Obama administration has engaged in an unprecedented assault on religious liberties, particularly against the religious freedom of Christians.   In this battle, the American Freedom Law Center (AFLC) has led the charge to stop Obama’s war on the First Amendment.

On April 30, 2013, AFLC filed a federal lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, challenging the Obama administration’s HHS mandate, which requires employers to provide insurance plans that include coverage for contraception, sterilization, abortifacients (drugs that chemically induce abortion), and related education and counseling.  If an employer refuses to comply with this mandate, they will incur substantial penalty fines.

AFLC filed its lawsuit on behalf of Johnson Welded Products, Inc. (JWP), a family owned and operated company in Ohio, and on behalf of its President and principal owner, Ms. Lilli Johnson.  The HHS mandate will apply in full force to JWP on July 1, 2013, and will thus require Ms. Johnson and JWP, in JWP’s health care plan, to provide coverage for contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients or face fines of up to $27,000 per day.

Johnson is a devout Catholic who opposes the HHS mandate based on her sincerely held religious beliefs.  As the majority owner of JWP, she strives to run her company consistent with her Catholic beliefs.  Indeed, Ms. Johnson holds and actively professes religious beliefs that include traditional Christian teaching on the nature and purpose of human sexuality.

In particular, in accordance with Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, Johnson believes that human sexuality has two primary purposes: to “most closely unit[e] husband and wife” and “for the generation of new lives.”  Ms. Johnson believes and actively professes the Catholic Church teaching that “[t]o use this divine gift destroying, even if only partially, its meaning and purpose is to contradict the nature both of man and of woman and of their most intimate relationship, and therefore it is to contradict also the plan of God and His Will.”

Consequently, the HHS mandate is forcing her to either follow her religious beliefs or to commit a grave sin.  If she chooses to follow her religious beliefs and convictions, then she and JWP will be subject to the federal government’s severe fines and penalties, which would make it exceedingly difficult for JWP to survive economically.

As alleged in the complaint, the HHS mandate violates JWP’s and Johnson’s rights to the free exercise of religion and the freedom of speech under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act.  The complaint asks the federal court to declare that the HHS mandate is unconstitutional and to permanently enjoin its enforcement.

CASE UPDATE (May 24, 2013): On May 24, 2013, Federal Judge Ellen S. Huvelle granted AFLC’s request for a preliminary injunction, thereby enjoining the Obama administration from enforcing the HHS contraceptive services mandate against JWP and Ms. Johnson pending resolution of a similar case that is currently on appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

CASE UPDATE (October 24, 2014): The court entered judgement in our favor and permanently enjoined the contraceptive services mandate.