A federal district court issued an order Tuesday that permanently prevents the federal government from enforcing the Obamacare abortion-pill mandate against four Christian universities in Oklahoma represented by Alliance Defending Freedom. The order also declares that the mandate violates the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
The Obama-era mandate forces employers, regardless of their religious or moral convictions, to provide abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception through their health plans under threat of heavy penalties. The Department of Justice, under the Trump administration, abandoned its defense of the flawed mandate, which the Department of Health and Human Services implemented during the previous administration.
“Religious organizations have the freedom to peacefully operate according to their beliefs without the threat of punishment by the government. Today’s order fully affirms that freedom and provides permanent protection from the mandate,” said ADF Senior Counsel Gregory S. Baylor.
“These universities no longer have to fear being forced to pay fines for simply abiding by the Christian beliefs they teach and espouse, and they are no longer required to fill out forms authorizing coverage for abortion-inducing drugs,” Baylor explained. “The government has many other ways to ensure access to these drugs without forcing people of faith to violate their deepest convictions.”
ADF attorneys represent Southern Nazarene University, Oklahoma Wesleyan University, Oklahoma Baptist University, and Mid-America Christian University, all of which specifically object to providing abortifacients.
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“Plaintiffs have demonstrated, and Defendants now concede, that requiring Plaintiffs to comply with [the HHS mandate], to the extent such compliance contradict[s] Plaintiffs’ religious beliefs, violates their rights protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act…,” the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma wrote in its order in Southern Nazarene University v. Azar, adding that “the public interest in the vindication of religious freedom favors the entry of an injunction and declaratory judgment.”
In 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court sent the case, consolidated with several other similar cases, back to the lower courts for potential resolution by the parties. ADF attorneys and allied attorneys continue to litigate numerous other lawsuits against the mandate.