ANN ARBOR, MI – The Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, today filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia challenging the Obama Administration’s HHS Mandate. The lawsuit was brought on behalf of two brothers, one a Catholic and the other a Protestant, and their family-owned law firm, Willis & Willis, PLC.
Michael and Shaun Willis began their family law practice in their hometown of Kalamazoo, MI. They dedicate their practice to God and to the memory of their brother, Marine Corporal Christopher Kelly Willis who, while still in the service, was tragically killed in a car accident after returning home from his combat tour in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Michael and Shaun believe that their brother Christopher dedicated his short life to protecting those freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution and that those freedoms are now under attack here at home by the HHS Mandate.
This is the seventh challenge to the HHS mandate filed by TMLC.
Erin Mersino, TMLC’s lead attorney on the case, commented, “That our own government is knowingly displaying such a lack of tolerance for faithful Christians is outrageous. The HHS mandate must be ruled unconstitutional or there will be no end to the federal government’s intrusion on the religious liberties of Christians.“
The Willis brothers have always conducted their legal practice with integrity and in compliance with the teachings and values of their Christian faith. They founded and fund the Corporal Christopher Kelly Willis Foundation to fulfill the Foundation’s mission to provide Great Rewards for Great Warriors via its campaign to provide college scholarships to children whose military parent has been killed or permanently disabled in a combat zone. The Foundation reminds children that their parents, who gave their lives in battle defending our freedoms, are American heroes who did not die in vain.
Both Michael and Shaun are devout, pro-life Christians. They share a deep religious conviction that abortion, abortifacients, and life-ending contraceptives are a grave sin.
In all aspects of their personal and professional lives, they live out their Christian faith. They formed the organization, Christian Legal Aid of Southeast Michigan, a nonprofit firm providing pro bono legal services to local homeless persons. Additionally, attorneys at Willis & Willis are encouraged to ‘tithe’ at least 10% of their time each year to pro bono, civic or community services. The firm also supports multiple faith based organizations such as Kalamazoo Right to Life, Alternatives Pregnancy Care Center, and Young Life Kalamazoo to name a few.
Based on their deeply held religious beliefs, the Willis brothers were able to exclude insurance coverage for contraception, sterilization, abortion, and abortifacients.
However, the HHS Mandate now requires them to pay for health insurance that covers abortion-inducing drugs, contraception and sterilization or pay enormous fines. The Complaint states, “The Mandate not only forces Plaintiffs to finance abortion, and related education and counseling as health care, but also subverts the expression of Plaintiffs’ religious beliefs, and the beliefs of millions of other Americans, by forcing Plaintiffs to fund, promote, and assist others to acquire services which Plaintiffs believe involve gravely immoral practices, including the destruction of innocent life.”
Because of the HHS Mandate, the Willis brothers must choose between violating their faith and violating the law—an unconstitutional choice.
The purpose of the lawsuit is to seek a court ruling that declares the HHS Mandate violates Constitution and Federal statutes and to permanently block its enforcement.
Should the Willis law firm refuse to abide by the requirements of the HHS Mandate, they would face tax penalties equivalent to $100 per day per employee for 15 full-time employees or approximately $547,500 each tax year. The Mandate also exposes them to substantial competitive disadvantages, in that they will no longer be permitted to offer health insurance.
The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the HHS Mandate under the First Amendment rights to the Free Exercise of Religion, Free Speech and the Establishment Clause. It also claims that the HHS Mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.
Named as Defendants in the lawsuit are Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services; Seth D. Harris, Acting Secretary of the Department of Labor; Jack Lew, Secretary of the Department of Treasury; and their respective departments.
The first paragraph of the lawsuit succinctly sets forth its basis: “This is a case about religious freedom. Thomas Jefferson, a Founding Father of our country, principal author of the Declaration of Independence, and our third president, when describing the construct of our Constitution proclaimed, “No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprises of the civil authority.’”