A federal judge has dismissed another lawsuit filed against the Obama HHS mandate that forces religious groups to pay for or refer women for abortion-causing drugs and birth control. This comes after another federal judge tossed another lawsuit earlier this week.
In this second case, Judge James E. Boasberg of the D.C. Federal Court threw out the lawsuit Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina, the first plaintiff to file suit against the mandate, filed earlier this year. Judge Boasberg said he dismissed the lawsuit because the Obama administration is revising the initial rule it release forcing religious groups to pay for the drugs that violate their conscience and beliefs.
He wrote that he favored “deferring review until the agency’s position on exemptions to the contraceptive-coverage requirement is settled.”
After the first case was dismissed, Kyle Duncan, general counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, attorneys for plaintiffs, said the decision turns on technicalities and doesn’t decide the merits of the dispute.
In its legal papers, the Obama administration did not defend the constitutionality of the mandate, but said the lawsuit should be thrown out because the administration plans to revise the mandate to make it on insurance companies to pay for coverage rather than employers, who will still have to make referrals.
Obama officials claim the mandate does not put forth any “immediate injury” to religious groups.
Luke Goodrich, Deputy General Counsel of the Becket Fund, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of Belmont Abbey College, a Catholic university, said before this week’s decision he thought the Obama administrations argument will not stand up in court.
“It doesn’t argue that the mandate is legal; it doesn’t argue that the mandate is constitutional,” Goodrich said. “Instead, it begs the court to ignore the lawsuit because the government plans to change the mandate at some unspecified date in the future.”
“Apparently, the administration has decided that the mandate, as written and finalized, is constitutionally indefensible,” said Hannah Smith, senior counsel at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty “Its only hope is to ask the court to look the other way based on an empty promise to possibly change the rules in the future.”
Before the judge’s decision, Obama’s February 10 “accommodation” came under increasing fire on numerous fronts. A diverse coalition of over 300 scholars and religious leaders have called the maneuver “unacceptable,” because it still forces many religious organizations to violate their core religious beliefs. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has also denounced it.
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The panel that put together the mandate has been condemned for only having pro-abortion members even though polling shows Americans are opposed to the mandate.