A federal judge in Colorado relieved a private company owned by Roman Catholics of the requirement to provide employees with contraception, pending further litigation of the contraception mandate.

“A preliminary injunction is an extraordinary remedy; accordingly, the right to relief must
be clear and unequivocal,” Judge John Kane — an appointee of President Jimmy Carter’s — wrote as he explained his order today. “On balance, the threatened harm to Plaintiffs, impingement of their right to freely exercise their religious beliefs, and the concommittant public interest in that right s[t]rongly favor the entry of injunctive relief.”

The lawsuit was brought by Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of the owners of Hercules Industries, Inc.,  — a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning company owned by a Roman Catholic family. The company self-insures, and so the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate contained in Obamacare would require them to provide contraception to employees, despite their religious beliefs to the contrary.

“Can a corporation exercise religion?” Kane asked in his order. “Should a closely-held subchapter-s corporation owned and operated by a small group of individuals professing adherence to uniform religious beliefs be treated differently than a publicly held corporation owned and operated by a group of stakeholders with diverse religious beliefs? Is it possible to ‘pierce the veil’ and disregard the corporate form in this context? What is the significance of the pass-through taxation applicable to subchapter-s corporations as it pertains to this analysis? These questions merit more deliberate investigation.”

Matt Bowman, legal counsel at ADF, noted that “the cost of freedom for this family could be millions of dollars per year in fines that will cripple their business if the Obama administration ultimately has its way” because of the fines imposed on the company for failing to provide an acceptable health insurance plan to employees.

Hannah Smith, senior counsel at the Becket Fund — which is challenging the contraception mandate in a separate lawsuit — hailed the ruling. “Judge Kane’s ruling today in favor of a religious for-profit plaintiff challenging the coercive HHS mandate got the law right,” she said in a statement. “Religious liberty rights don’t stop at the store-front door. This decision portends the demise of the current Administration’s attempts to drive religious activity from the public square and confine it within the four walls of a church.”

Kane stressed that only Hercules enjoys this preliminary injunction. “This injunction is, however, premised upon the alleged substantial burden on Plaintiffs’ free exercise of religion – not to any alleged burden on any other party’s free exercise of religion,” he wrote. “It does not enjoin enforcement of the preventive care coverage mandate against any other party.”