Guest author: James Leonard weighs in on Domino’s Pizza founder’s suit against the U.S. Government

by Emily on January 3, 2013

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James Leonard is the author of Living the Faith: A Life of Tom Monaghan, a biography of one of America’s most controversial business and religious figures.  

Once again putting his money where his mouth is, conservative Catholic Tom Monaghan sued the federal government on December 15, 2012 over mandatory contraception coverage in the recently upheld health care law.

Saying contraception is “gravely immoral” and that mandatory coverage “threatens the religious liberties of all Americans,” the former owner of Domino’s Pizza also named Domino’s Farms as a co-plaintiff in the suit.

The mile-long, million-square-foot office building located in Ann Arbor Township is all Monaghan has left after selling Domino’s to Bain Capital in 1998 and contributing the billion dollar profit to finance founding a conservative Catholic educational empire including Ave Maria University and Ave Maria School of Law plus building a town called Ave Maria.

Though this is the first time the seventy-five year old Monaghan has personally sued the government, he founded the Thomas More Law Center in 1999 and for many years funded its mission to “defend and promote America’s Christian heritage,” a mission which amounted to suing the government in his behalf.

As “The Sword and Spirit of Faith,” a chapter from Living the Faith shows, the Center has repeatedly sued the government, most recently over the bailout of insurance giant AIG because it supposedly supported Islamic terrorism, over the Hate Crimes Act because its alleged goal was to criminalized the Bible, and over the Affordable Health Care Act because they claimed it was unconstitutional – and lost every time.

Monaghan nevertheless chose Dick Thompson, the Center’s president and chief council, as his attorney and Erin Mersino of the Center as his lead attorney. Well-known for his failed prosecution of Jack “Dr. Death” Kevorkian, Thompson also famously lost the so-called “Intelligent Design” case in Dover, Pennsylvania, where a Christian school board attempted to remove evolution from science classes and replace it with creationism.

Given Thompson and the Law Center’s losing record and his suit’s dubious merits, Monaghan is unlikely to win, though a December 31 ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence P. Zatkoff of the Eastern District of Michigan did grant an emergency motion temporarily halting the enforcement of the federal mandate.

But this temporary stay hardly indicates that Monaghan’s suit stands a chance of winning – and losing big enough could end his ownership of Domino’s Farms and limit his ability to pursue his goals in the future.

Some applaud Monaghan’s suit. “He takes his faith very seriously and clearly is more than willing to put his considerable money where his mouth is,” writes Wesley J. Smith in the National Review. In Smith’s view, the real issue isn’t “birth control, but the power of the government to bulldoze freedom of religion down to a mere freedom of worship. Regardless of one’s faith or lack thereof, all who believe in American liberty should wish Monaghan well.”

Others might wonder why it is a good thing that Monaghan or anyone else would put their money where their mouth is. Surely that Monaghan put his money where his mouth is has less significance than where he put his mouth, how he put it there, and what he did with it there.

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