Trump Admin Ends Lawsuit Obama Used to Force Christian University to Fund Abortions

National   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Nov 22, 2017   |   5:16PM   |   Washington, DC

The Trump administration recently stopped pursuing an Obama-era lawsuit against a Christian university that opposes paying for drugs that may cause abortions in its employee health plans.

Baptist Press reports Union University, a Christian school in Jackson, Tennessee, and the federal government recently reached a settlement in the dispute over the Obamacare HHS mandate.

“We rejoice over this outcome, in which the government acknowledges that the contraception mandate would impose a substantial burden on our exercise of religion and violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” university President Samuel W. “Dub” Oliver said in a statement.

In the settlement, the U.S. government agreed that the HHS mandate imposed a “substantial burden” on the university’s religious freedom, according to the report. It referred to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling involving the Christian-owned business Hobby Lobby.

“We believe, based on the Bible, that life begins at conception,” Oliver said. “We went to court to defend religious liberty, the right to believe and to live according to those beliefs, and we are glad that religious liberty prevailed.”

Here’s more from the report:

The agreement between Union and the U.S. government specifies that Union’s employee health plans are permanently exempt from the HHS contraception mandate.

The settlement follows new rules issued by the Trump administration Oct. 6 to exempt entities from the mandate based on their religious beliefs.

Union filed one of 56 lawsuits involving more than 140 faith-based plaintiffs against the federal HHS mandate in 2014 that sought a judgment declaring that the abortifacient mandate of the Affordable Care Act violated the university’s rights, not only under RFRA but also under the First and Fifth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and the Administrative Procedures Act. …

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As part of the settlement, the government agreed to pay the bulk of the legal fees that Union accrued.

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to protect Christian organizations like the Little Sisters of the Poor from being forced to pay for abortions.

The order indicates the Trump administration will “provide regulatory relief for religious objectors to Obamacare’s burdensome preventive services mandate, a position supported by the Supreme Court decision in Hobby Lobby.”

It limits a rule created under the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act that required that employers, including non-church religious organizations, cover all forms of contraception, from birth control pills to drugs and devices that may cause abortions at no cost to the employees.

However, abortion activists are suing to stop the order from protecting religious non-profits like the Little Sisters of the Poor, Catholic nuns who dedicate their lives to caring for the elderly poor. The religious group opposes providing drugs like the week-after pill in their healthcare plans in violation of their faith. If it stands, the new rule should mean that their lawsuit against the federal government will soon end.

The controversial mandate has twice made it to the U.S. Supreme Court where the nation’s highest court sided with both Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters of the Poor and their attempts to not be forced to pay for abortion causing drugs in violation of their consciences.

The court ruled that Hobby Lobby and other similar businesses were protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which states that an individual’s religious expression shouldn’t be “substantially burdened” by a law unless there is a “compelling government interest.”

In the Hobby Lobby ruling, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that the Affordable Care Act’s contraception rule “would put these merchants to a difficult choice: either give up the right to seek judicial protection of their religious liberty or forgo the benefits, available to their competitors, of operating as corporations.”