On Monday, 16 states, along with several religious groups, are filing friend-of-the-court briefs at the Supreme Court supporting Houston Baptist University (HBU), East Texas Baptist University (ETBU), and Westminster Theological Seminary in their HHS mandate challenge. Last month, the three religious groups appealed to the Supreme Court for relief from the government, which is forcing them to comply with the healthcare mandate in violation of their faith or pay millions in IRS fines.
“This strong show of support for HBU and ETBU demonstrates just how important it is that the Supreme Court address the impact of the HHS mandate, particularly on religious groups,” said Diana Verm, Legal Counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. “It is especially significant that 16 state governments are supporting HBU and ETBU at the Supreme Court.”
In addition to the 16-state amicus brief, briefs are being filed by, among others, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Christian and Missionary Alliance Foundation, the Alliance Community for Retirement Living, Simpson University, Crown College, and the 181-member Council of Christian Colleges and Universities. Today’s strong support is an indication that the Court is likely to decide in the upcoming term whether religious ministries, like religious for-profits, will receive protection from the Mandate.
In December 2013 a Houston federal court ruled in favor of the schools, yet in June 2015 the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals denied relief to HBU, ETBU, and Westminster. Westminster is separately represented by Ken Wynne of Wynne & Wynne LLP in Houston. Last month, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and former Solicitor General and leading Supreme Court advocate Paul Clement filed the cert petition on behalf of the three religious groups.
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“The Supreme Court has already granted interim relief from the HHS Mandate to religious groups five times,” said Verm. “The government has exempted thousands of businesses from the HHS Mandate, so why is it needlessly forcing religious institutions, nuns and homeless shelters to carry out its goals? Isn’t that what its own exchanges are meant to do?”
The Becket Fund continues to lead the charge against the unconstitutional HHS mandate, winning a landmark victory at the U.S. Supreme Court in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. It currently represents the Little Sisters of the Poor, Mother Angelica’s Eternal Word Television Network, and Colorado Christian University, along with many other religious ministries. Five other petitions challenging the HHS mandate have already been filed at the Supreme Court and more are expected.