The terse, four-page order is the first to flatly bar the federal government from enforcing any part of the contraceptive benefit in the federal health-care law. Judge Heaton, who earlier had turned down an identical request by Hobby Lobby to delay enforcement (his request was overturned by the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals), took the opportunity to jab back at the court of appeals, holding that Hobby Lobby had “newly recognized religious rights” that drove much of the conclusion to block enforcement, despite his earlier order refusing to do so. These “newly recognized religious rights,” Heaton’s order makes clear, stem from the Tenth Circuit’s ruling that business firms can take on the religious views of their owners and then exercise those rights on their own in the way they conduct their business operations.
After hearing arguments Friday, U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton issued an order temporarily exempting Hobby Lobby from complying with the contraception benefit in the Affordable Care Act, which requires it to offer insurance coverage for the morning-after pill and similar birth control or face steep fines. The ruling moves the national fight over the constitutionality of the contraception benefit a significant step closer to the Supreme Court, but also shows a deep divide within the federal judiciary over whether or not corporations have constitutional religious rights.