Judge halts contraceptive mandate for pizza magnate

DETROIT -- The founder of Domino's Pizza won a court order that temporarily allows him to avoid Affordable Care Act-mandated contraceptive coverage for employees at his Ann Arbor, Mich., Domino's Farms property management company.

Afederal court judge granted a temporary restraining order Sunday,citing a First Amendment right to freedom of religion, until a finaldecision is made.

Tom Monaghan sold Domino's Pizza in 1998. He was also the owner of the Detroit Tigers from 1983-92.

A devout Catholic who also founded Ave Maria Universityin southwest Florida, Monaghan argued in a lawsuit filed in the U.S.District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan on Dec. 14 thatbeing forced to cover his Domino's Farmsstaffers' contraceptives, such as the Plan B and other morning-afterpills, ran contrary to the tenets of his faith. "Gravely immoralpractices" is how contraceptives are described in the original lawsuit.

"I'melated," said his attorney, Erin Mersino. "This is really what (myclient) sought at this point. We're happy that as of tomorrow, religiousfreedom won't be violated."

U.S. District Judge Lawrence Zatkoffwrote in his opinion that he was issuing the temporary restraining orderbecause the case wouldn't be resolved before Tuesday, when theDomino's Farms health care plan year begins.

Insurance companies began to be subjected to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate Aug. 1.

"Abidingby the mandate will substantially burden his exercise of religion,"Zatkoff said. "Because plaintiffs' claims involve a First Amendmentright, and because the court has found some likelihood that plaintiffs'... claim will succeed on the merits, the court finds that irreparableharm could result to plaintiff."

The government says thecontraception mandate benefits women's health and removes financialbarriers. There are about a dozen similar lawsuits pending nationwide.

Ina related issue, a Texas judge Monday ruled that state can cut offfunding to Planned Parenthood's family planning programs for poor women.Judge Gary Harger said that Texas may exclude otherwise qualifieddoctors and clinics from receiving state funding if they advocate forabortion rights.

Monaghan filed for a temporary restraining order Dec. 21.

IfDomino's Farms, which has 45 full-time and 44 part-time employees,failed to provide health insurance in an attempt to dodge thecontraceptives requirement, it would face about $200,000 in annualpenalties, according to court documents.


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