A federal district court judge in Houston ruled Friday in favor of two Baptist universities seeking relief from the Obamacare contraception mandate.
“The religious organization plaintiffs have shown a sincerely held religious belief that the court cannot second-guess,” reads the decision handed down in favor of East Texas Baptist University and Houston Baptist University by Lee H. Rosenthal.
“The plaintiffs have also shown that if they do not comply with a certain requirement that they believe offends that belief, they will face onerous fines.”
“The public interest weighs in favor of granting the injunction. Protecting constitutional rights and the rights under RFRA [Religious Freedom Restoration Act] are in the public’s interest,” continued Rosenthal, who was appointed to the U.S. District Court of Southern Texas by George H. W. Bush.
Obamacare initially required all large employers to provide for the coverage of contraceptives and other similar products in all non-grandfathered health insurance plans. The health law required that all plans provide coverage for any FDA-approved “contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity.”
Such FDA-approved products included abortifacients such as Plan B.
But religious institutions such as churches won relief from the law. Currently, for-profit employers like Hobby Lobby have sued for protection as well. Rosenthal noted in her decision that courts throughout the country have ruled differently in cases involving nonprofit religious institutions like the Baptist universities.
The Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty, which is a non-profit law firm that handles cases dealing with the freedom of religious expression, issued a press release following the decision.
“The government doesn’t have the right to decide what religious beliefs are legitimate and which ones aren’t,” said Eric Rassbach, Deputy General Counsel at the Becket Fund and lead attorney for East Texas Baptist and Houston Baptist Universities. “In its careful opinion, the Court recognized that the government was trying to move across that forbidden line, and said ‘No further!'”
“The government has enforced the health care reform law very unevenly, handing out exemptions to those it sees as its allies,” stated Rassbach in the press release. “Perhaps the worst part of the government’s approach is that it seems to have decided that religious institutions are the only ones not to get an exemption.”
According to the Beckett Fund, there are currently 89 lawsuits challenging the legality of the contraception mandate. The Beckett Fund’s clients include the two Baptist universities, Hobby Lobby, Wheaton College, Colorado Christian College, among others.
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