College Refuses Obama Admin Demand to Drop HHS Mandate Lawsuit

National   |   Steven Ertelt, Alliance Defending Freedom   |   Aug 14, 2012   |   6:00PM   |   Baton Rouge, LA

Louisiana College filed a response in federal court Friday to the U.S. Department of Justice’s motion to dismiss the college’s lawsuit against the Obama administration’s abortion pill mandate.

The lawsuit challenges the unconstitutional mandate, which requires religious employers to provide insurance coverage for abortion pills at no cost to employees regardless of religious or moral objections.

“Every American should be free to live and do business according to their faith,” said Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot. “The government shouldn’t punish people of faith for following their beliefs when making decisions for themselves or their organizations. That’s why this lawsuit should not be casually dismissed as the Obama administration would like to see happen.”

“This mandate leaves religious employers with no true choice: either comply and abandon your religious freedom and conscience, or resist and be punished,” said allied attorney and co-counsel Mike Johnson, dean of Louisiana College’s Pressler School of Law. “It is a shame that the Obama administration is opposing religious freedom rather than supporting it.”

The college’s response, filed with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana in Louisiana College v. Sebelius, pokes holes in the Obama administration’s contention that the lawsuit should be dismissed. The administration points to a notice it issued in March about a proposed rulemaking process that would require insurers rather than employers to provide abortion pill coverage.

“But the [notice] does not make that proposal or explain how it will work,” the response brief states. “Louisiana College affirms that even if its insurer provided the abortifacient coverage, this would still violate the College’s religious beliefs by forcing it to provide employees an objectionable plan. The [notice] therefore is not a concrete proposed rule that ‘if made final, would significantly amend’ the Mandate.”



“Under the government’s position, no case can challenge the constitutionality of a statute or regulation if it may be changed in the future. That can be said of any law,” the brief continues. “If the government is still trying to figure out what the Mandate should require, it should withdraw it. Government shouldn’t be able to require compliance with a Mandate that it says is unfinished.”

Recently, a federal court issued an order that halts enforcement of the Obama administration’s abortion pill mandate against a Colorado family-owned business while an Alliance Defending Freedom lawsuit challenging the mandate continues in court.

The mandate has generated massive opposition from pro-life groups because it forces employers, regardless of their religious or moral convictions, to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception under threat of heavy penalties.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys obtained the first-ever order against the mandate on behalf of Hercules Industries and the Catholic family that owns it. The administration opposed the order, arguing, contrary to the U.S. Constitution, that people of faith forfeit their religious liberty once they engage in business.

The decision only applies to the company, and the court emphasized the ruling did not apply nationwide.

Since Hercules Industries would be required to begin offering the new coverage when its self-insured plan renews on November 1, Alliance Defending Freedom has requested a preliminary injunction that could prevent the government from enforcing the mandate against the company by August 1, the date when the company would need to begin the process of making changes to its plan.

As is the case with many religious groups or employers, the mandate could subject the Newlands to millions of dollars in fines per year if they don’t abide by its requirements.

“Every American, including family business owners, should be free to live and do business according to their faith. For the time being, Hercules Industries will be able to do just that,” said ADF Legal Counsel Matt Bowman after the decision.

Bowman added, “The cost of freedom for this family could be millions of dollars per year in fines that will cripple their business if the Obama administration ultimately has its way. This lawsuit seeks to ensure that Washington bureaucrats cannot force families to abandon their faith just to earn a living. Americans don’t want politicians and bureaucrats deciding what faith is, who the faithful are, and where and how that faith may be lived out.”

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty led the charge filing the first lawsuits against the HHS mandate representing five clients: Belmont Abbey College, Colorado Christian University, Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), Ave Maria University, and Wheaton College. There are currently over 20 lawsuits pending around the country against the HHS mandate.