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In brief: Judge rejects claim that contraceptive requirement violates religious freedom

From Wire Reports

ST. LOUIS – A federal judge has dismissed a claim that the 2010 health care reform law’s contraception mandate violates an employer’s religious freedom. It is believed to be the first decision on the merits among dozens of lawsuits across the country.

O’Brien Industrial Holdings, owned by Frank O’Brien, a Catholic, filed notice Monday of appeal.

The law requires coverage of prescription birth control pills and implants at no cost to enrollees in all private health insurance policies, starting in 2013.

U.S. District Judge Carol Jackson ruled late Friday that the “regulations do not impose a ‘substantial burden’ on either Frank O’Brien or OIH, and do not violate (their) rights.”

O’Brien sued the federal government in March, alleging that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act violates the First Amendment, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Administrative Procedure Act, forcing a choice between moral beliefs and fines.

Jackson said O’Brien was free to engage in religious practice by not using contraception and encouraging employees not to either.

Chavez home to be national monument

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama is designating the California home of labor leader Cesar Chavez as a national monument, a move likely to shore up support from Hispanic and progressive voters just five weeks before the election.

The White House said Monday that Obama will establish the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument in Keene, Calif., during a campaign swing through California next week.

The site served as national headquarters of the United Farm Workers union, as well as Chavez’s home, from the early 1970s until his death in 1993. Chavez is buried there, and his gravesite will be part of the monument.

As head of the UFW, Chavez staged a massive grape boycott that raised awareness of the plight of predominantly Latino farmworkers. His efforts were credited with inspiring millions of other Latinos in their fight for more educational opportunities, better housing and more political power.

$2 million in gems, gold stolen in midday

MARIPOSA, Calif. – California investigators searched Monday for thieves who made off with an estimated $2 million in precious gems and gold from a museum during a brazen daytime robbery.

But they didn’t get away with the biggest prize of all – the nearly 14-pound Fricot Nugget, a crystalline gold mass unearthed in the Gold Rush era.

During their attempt to grab the rock, the robbers triggered an alarm that alerted authorities, who swarmed the museum but were unable to nab the thieves. At least two robbers wearing hoods and armed with pickaxes threatened workers during the heist Friday at the California Mining and Minerals Museum in Mariposa, the California Highway Patrol said.

Second suspect arrested in slaying

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten – St. Maarten police have arrested a second suspect in the slaying of an American couple who were stabbed to death in their beachfront condominium.

A statement by prosecutors on Monday identified the 17-year-old suspect by his initials, J.C.M. It said he was captured after an intensive search. Authorities say more arrests “cannot be excluded.”

Earlier this month, police also arrested Meyshane Johnson, a Jamaican security guard. He is being held on pre-trial detention as prosecutors build their case.

Michael and Thelma King, of Mount Pleasant, S.C., were found stabbed to death in their vacation home last month.

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