A federal court today stopped enforcement of the Obama administration’s abortion pill mandate against a Bible publisher which filed a lawsuit against it.
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.
The Obama administration opposed the order, arguing that Tyndale House Publishers isn’t religious enough for an exemption from the mandate, a component of ObamaCare that 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.
Represented by attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom, Tyndale House Publishers, based in Illinois, is the world’s largest privately held Christian publisher of books, Bibles, and digital media and directs 96.5 percent of its profits to religious non-profit causes worldwide. The publisher specifically objects to covering abortifacients under the mandate.
The court’s order is the third nationwide against the mandate and the second obtained by Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys.
“Bible publishers should be free to do business according to the book that they publish,” said Senior Legal Counsel Matt Bowman, who argued before the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Nov. 9.
Bowman told LifeNews: “The court has done the right thing in halting the mandate while our lawsuit moves forward. For the government to say that a Bible publisher is not religious is startling. It demonstrates how clearly the Obama administration is willing to disregard the Constitution’s protection of religious freedom to achieve certain political purposes.”
In its opinion accompanying a preliminary injunction order in Tyndale House Publishers v. Sebelius, the court wrote that “the beliefs of Tyndale and its owners are indistinguishable…. Christian principles, prayer, and activities are pervasive at Tyndale, and the company’s ownership structure is designed to ensure that it never strays from its faith-oriented mission.
The opinion continued: “The Court has no reason to doubt, moreover, that Tyndale’s religious objection to providing insurance coverage for certain contraceptives reflects the beliefs of Tyndale’s owners. Nor is there any dispute that Tyndale’s primary owner, the Foundation, can ‘exercise religion’ in its own right, given that it is a non-profit religious organization; indeed, the case law is replete with examples of such organizations asserting cognizable free exercise and RFRA [Religious Freedom Restoration Act] challenges.”
Tyndale is subject to the mandate because Obama administration rules say for-profit corporations are categorically non-religious, even though Tyndale House is strictly a publisher of Bibles and other Christian materials and is primarily owned by the non-profit Tyndale House Foundation. The foundation provides grants to help meet the physical and spiritual needs of people around the world.
On July 27, Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys obtained the first-ever court order against the Obama administration’s mandate on behalf of Colorado’s Hercules Industries and the Catholic family that owns it.
Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys and allied attorneys are also litigating five other lawsuits against the mandate: one in Minnesota on behalf of Annex Medical, Inc.; one in Indiana on behalf of Grote Industries; another one in Indiana on behalf of Indiana’s Grace College and Seminary and California’s Biola University; one in Pennsylvania on behalf of Geneva College and The Seneca Hardwood Lumber Company and its owners, the Hepler family; and one in Louisiana on behalf of Louisiana College. The lawsuits represent a large cross-section of Protestants and Catholics who object to the mandate.
Federal judges have dismissed two other lawsuits filed against the mandate.
In the 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.
Luke Goodrich, Deputy General Counsel of the Becket Fund, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of Belmont Abbey College, a Catholic university, said before the 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.”
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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’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.
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.