Tom Monaghan / John Gallagher/Detroit Free Press
By JC Reindl
Detroit Free Press Business Writer
Domino's Pizza founder Tom Monaghan won another temporary court order Thursday that allows him to avoid a requirement in the Affordable Care Act that he offer contraceptive coverage to employees at his Ann Arbor Domino's Farms property-management company.
U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence Zatkoff granted Monaghan a preliminary injunction, citing First Amendment rights and freedom to exercise religion.
The injunction frees Monaghan from providing any form of contraception coverage during the duration of his lawsuit against the federal government and the Affordable Care Act mandate.
Zatkoff previously granted Monaghan a temporary restraining order against the mandate on Dec. 31.
"The government will suffer some, but comparatively minimal harm if the injunction is granted," Zatkoff wrote in Thursday's decision.
Monaghan's case is one of about 16 pending nationwide. Detroit-area Weingartz Supply received a similar injunction last fall.
Certain religious employers are exempt from the health care law's contraception requirement.
Monaghan, a devout Catholic, founded Domino's Pizza in 1960 and sold it in 1998. He also owned the Detroit Tigers from 1983-92 and founded the Ave Maria School of Law, a Catholic law school that moved from Ann Arbor to Naples, Fla., in 2009.
His Domino's Farms has 45 full-time and 44 part-time employees. Absent a court order, the business would have had to offer contraception and sterilization services with no co-pay starting Jan. 1 or face about $200,000 in annual penalties under the health care law.
Although the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate took effect Aug. 1, Domino Farms had until Jan. 1 to comply, the start of its health care plan year with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.
Monaghan's attorney, Erin Mersino of the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, said she was pleased with the Eastern District court's decision. Monaghan is the law center's co-founder.
Mersino said her client is particularly opposed to providing coverage for so-called morning-after pills.
"All of his employees have the same freedoms as anyone else," Mersino said. "He is just asking that he himself, because it violates his religious views, that he doesn't have to directly provide it."
Domino's Pizza was tweeting back people Thursday who called for a boycott of the pizzamaker on Twitter, pointing out that Monaghan is no longer associated with the company and that it has not made any statements about the health care law.
U.S. Justice Department representatives did not return messages seeking comment Thursday afternoon.
The government says contraception coverage benefits women's health and can improve their social and economic status.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed a court brief in support of granting Monaghan's injunction, while the American Civil Liberties Union opposed the court order.