Two Christian universities and a seminary are asking the Supreme Court to protect them from millions of dollars in IRS fines that will be triggered if they refuse to comply with the infamous HHS mandate. Filing the petition today are the same two firms that won the Hobby Lobby case against the government’s HHS mandate one year ago.
The request comes on the heels of the Supreme Court issuing an order preventing the Obama administration from forcing religious groups in Pennsylvania to obey the HHS mandate that requires them to pay for abortion-causing drugs for their employees. That was the sixth time the Supreme Court protected religious groups from the HHS mandate.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and former Solicitor General and leading Supreme Court advocate Paul Clement are filing the petition on behalf of Houston Baptist University, East Texas Baptist University and Pennsylvania-based Westminster Theological Seminary. The Supreme Court has already granted interim relief from the HHS Mandate to religious groups five times. The schools’ appeal makes it highly likely that the Court will decide whether religious universities will be required to provide contraceptive coverage in violation of their faith in the upcoming term.
“The government has already told thousands of businesses they don’t need to comply with the HHS Mandate,” said Diana Verm, Legal Counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. “So why is it bullying nuns, religious schools, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters unless they comply? It makes no sense.”
In December 2013 a Houston federal court ruled in favor of the schools, yet last month the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals denied relief to Houston Baptist and East Texas Baptist Universities, and Westminster. Westminster is separately represented by Ken Wynne of Wynne & Wynne LLP in Houston.
“We didn’t go looking for this fight,” said Dr. Robert Sloan, President of Houston Baptist University. “But here we stand and can do no other. We cannot help the government or anyone else provide potentially life-threatening drugs and devices. The government has many other ways to achieve its goals without involving us. It ought to pick one of those and let us go back to educating our students.”
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“The Supreme Court should step in and tell the federal government that separation of church and state is a two-way street,” said Verm. “The state should not be able to take over parts of the church—including these religious ministries—just so it has an easier way of distributing life terminating drugs.”
The Court is likely to consider all of the petitions in late September or early October. If the petition is granted, the case would be argued and decided before the end of the Court’s term in June 2016.
The religious organizations join over 750 plaintiffs in other nonprofit cases that have been granted protection from the unconstitutional HHS mandate, which forces religious ministries to either violate their faith or pay massive IRS penalties.
A December 2013 Rasmussen Reports poll shows Americans disagree with forcing companies like Hobby Lobby to obey the mandate.
“Half of voters now oppose a government requirement that employers provide health insurance with free contraceptives for their female employees,” Rasmussen reports.
The poll found: “The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 38% of Likely U.S. Voters still believe businesses should be required by law to provide health insurance that covers all government-approved contraceptives for women without co-payments or other charges to the patient.
Fifty-one percent (51%) disagree and say employers should not be required to provide health insurance with this type of coverage. Eleven percent (11%) are not sure.”
Another recent poll found 59 percent of Americans disagree with the mandate.