A Minnesota employer has won a religious exemption to the federal mandate requiring birth control coverage in workplace health insurance.

A Minnesota employer has won a religious exemption to the federal mandate requiring birth control coverage in workplace health insurance.

American Manufacturing Company of St. Joseph received the exemption based on the fact that owner Gregory Hall is an ordained Catholic deacon in Texas who opposes the types of birth control and sterilization specified in the Affordable Care Act. The law would have required the firm's insurance to fully cover those procedures for its approximately 40 employees, the Star Tribune reported.

"I hope that the results ... will encourage others to follow the dictates of their religious beliefs and stand up and assert their fundamental and legal rights," Hall said in a statement released by his St. Cloud-based law firm.

Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Hobby Lobby chain and other closely held private businesses with religious objections could opt out of the birth control mandate. Since that ruling, the U.S. Department of Justice has hastened settlements of dozens of similar cases across the U.S., said Thomas Mathews, one of Hall's attorneys.

The permanent injunction issued for Hall's company was a result of settlement negotiations with the Justice Department, Mathews said. It received relatively little attention when the U.S. District Court issued the ruling on the eve of Thanksgiving, but gained additional notice Thursday when Planned Parenthood issued a statement against it.

"It is unbelievable that in 2014, there's still a fight going on about whether women should have access to birth control," said Sarah Stoesz, president of the Planned Parenthood chapter for Minnesota and the Dakotas. "We know firsthand that access to birth control is both a health care and economic concern for women."

While the birth control mandate has been in effect for months, Hall had received a preliminary injunction in 2013 against birth control coverage until his lawsuit was resolved. The company makes pumps and other equipment for drilling and mining operations.