Tag archives: HHS Mandate

Federal Judge: Revised “Accommodation” for Religious Organizations Still not Good Enough

by Travis Weber

October 29, 2014

For the first time since the Obama Administration “tweaked” its HHS mandate “accommodation” this past August, a federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction blocking the government from enforcing the mandate on certain religious organizations. This is welcome news.

After the Hobby Lobby opinion came down, and after the Supreme Court issued its interim order in Wheaton College v. Burwell, the Administration revised it’s “accommodation” to permit religious objectors to HHS of their objection directly in addition to filling out the EBSA Form 700, if they chose. As we have argued before, however, this alternative step still leaves those with sincere religious objections in the position of having facilitated and played a part in matters which they believe are morally evil. The “revised accommodation” still forces these religious objectors to violate their conscience. Whether one government form is placed between them and the moral evil, they are still forced to take action which sets the objectionable activity in motion.

For this reason, we are heartened to see that Judge James Moody from the Middle District of Florida has blocked the administration from forcing its Interim Final Regulations on Ave Maria University, which had filed suit to avoid being forced to violate deeply held religious beliefs under threat of heavy fines. Judge Moody noted that the same consideration on which the 11th Circuit relied in granting relief for EWTN in Eternal Word Television Network, Inc. v. Sec’y, U.S. Dep’t of Health & Human Services, 756 F.3d 1339 (11th Cir. 2014) earlier this year was at play here – imminent harm to a religious organization which would be forced to violate its principles of conscience once the organization’s insurance plan year kicked in and the HHS mandate applied. Judge Moody thus granted relief for Ave Maria University. The school’s freedom of religion is protected – at least for now.

Discriminatory Murray Bill is anti-constitutional and anti-civil rights, anti-business, anti-religion, and anti-women

by Travis Weber

July 10, 2014

I’m not sure whether the title of the bill just introduced by Senator Murray—the “Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act of 2014”—or its stated purpose—“[t]o ensure that employers cannot interfere in their employees’ birth control and other health care decisions”—is more misleading and contrary to values Americans hold dear. Perhaps they are equally wrong. But not only is this bill misleading, it is anti-constitutional and civil rights, anti-religion, anti-business, and anti-women. In all these areas, the bill is just downright discriminatory.

Anti-constitutional and anti-civil rights

When Congress overwhelmingly passed RFRA in 1993, it demonstrated support for robust Free Exercise rights by requiring the government to meet a high threshold before burdening Americans’ exercise of religion—a civil and constitutional right. RFRA is not just a statute. RFRA enshrined in law the high standard of strict scrutiny when measuring free exercise claims. For decades, courts had applied this standard. Only recently had its application been questioned by the Court’s Smith decision. Thus Congress passed a law providing a high bar for measuring constitutional rights in this area.

Senator Murray doesn’t seem to care about any of this. If she did, she wouldn’t try to denigrate constitutional rights by trying to pass a law which lowers constitutional protections for all Americans. Instead of using her Article I powers consistent with what Article III courts have said, she ignores the Supreme Court’s guidance and flouts the checks and balances the Constitution put in place.

But even if this anti-constitutional law managed to get out of Congress, President Obama would be foolish in signing it instead of just authorizing the drugs as suggested by the Court.

And even if this law passed, it would be subject to a challenge under the Free Exercise Clause. This bill’s overt and direct discrimination against religion—which is very obvious coming right on the heels of Hobby Lobbyobb

would not be permissible under the First Amendment. Page 8 of her bill says, “[t]his Act is intended to be consistent with the Congressional intent in enacting the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act of 1993 … .” In RFRA, Congress evinced the intent to proclaim a broad and robust vision of free exercise, and clearly intended to reinstate strict scrutiny as the standard for Free Exercise claims. Senator Murray can’t have it both ways. She can’t proclaim support for the congressional intent of RFRA while gutting a protection RFRA clearly put in place.

Anti-business

In its Hobby Lobby decision, the Supreme Court made abundantly clear that businesses could not deny access to contraceptives, but only that the government had to find a less restrictive means of ensuring this access than forcing unwilling businesses into providing it themselves. One less restrictive means would be for the government to directly provide this birth control. But rather than working with the government to ensure this happens, Senator Murray and her cohorts are still trying to ram the HHS mandate down business owners’ throats, despite the fact that this was already rejected by the Court in Hobby Lobby. Senator Murray doesn’t care about access. If she did, she would follow the Supreme Court’s guidance, which would ensure quickest access to birth control. Instead, her measure will fail for numerous reasons, and will only waste time she could spend on providing birth control to women—an issue she claims to care about.

Anti-religion

Senator Murray goes out of her way to target religion in her bill. If she cared about access to contraceptives, she would work with the executive branch (which the Court explained could provide access) to provide these drugs. Instead, she has explicitly declared her antagonism to religion by opposing RFRA and the Court’s interpretation of RFRA for no reason related to “access” whatsoever—as access to these birth control methods can be provided other ways besides the HHS mandate. Instead, she wants to amend the law to achieve a result which has already been determined in violation of religious liberty by the Supreme Court. On page 6 of her bill, she claims that not covering contraceptives costs businesses more money. Why would she want to prevent businesses from incurring costs in order to remain true to their consciences? The only explanation is that she wants to force them to violate their consciences.

Anti-women

Plenty of women oppose the HHS mandate being used to stifle their religious exercise, and plenty of women judges agree that their claims have merit. 100 cases have already been filed against the HHS mandate. Many of the plaintiffs in these cases are women—women who run charities, like the Little Sisters of the Poor, but also women who run businesses. Nearly one-third of the business plaintiffs in these cases are women. In addition, women judges have voted to halt implementation of the mandate 24 times. In only 15 cases have they voted in favor of the employer mandate. Finally, more women oppose the mandate than support it in poll after poll across the United States.

How can Senator Murray and this bill’s supporters claim to be supporting women when they are directly opposing the sincere religious claims of so many American women?

A Defense of Religious Liberty on the Senate Floor

by Emily Minick

July 10, 2014

This week, Senator Coats went to the Senate floor to speak on the issue of religious liberty and the HHS mandate. The HHS mandate requires all private and employer based healthcare plans to cover contraceptives, drugs which can destroy a human embryo and sterilization services, without copay, under threat of crippling fines.

You can watch Senator Coats’ defense of Wheaton College, who just received an emergency injunction from the Supreme Court against the HHS mandate, here. Wheaton College is a non-profit challenging the Obama administration’s HHS mandate “accommodation”, which is nothing more than an accounting gimmick.

Eden Foods Statement to Customers on HHS Mandate Suit

by Cathy Ruse

April 17, 2013

As I mentioned in my last post, this afternoon I emailed a letter of support to Michael Potter of Eden Foods encouraging him in his lawsuit against the Obama Administration’s HHS Mandate.

Moments later I received this email in reply. It appears to be the statement sent to any inquiries regarding the suit. 

Again I say:  Rock on, Michael Potter!

Greetings,

Please be discerning consumers. Grotesque mischaracterizations about Eden Foods’ action related to the Health & Human Services (HHS) mandate, Affordable Care Act, are most regrettable.

OnMarch 21st, 2013a press release announced our lawsuit against the unconstitutional government overreach in theHHSmandate. This announcement was made to the media and general public. We apologize for the unintended consternation given rise to by this action.

Eden Foods’ health care provider is required by theHHSto comply with all details of the Affordable Care Act. Parts of the mandate violate the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act. This overreach of the federal government infringes on religious freedoms.

It is discriminatory that not all employers have to comply with theHHSmandate. Millions of people and thousands of companies are exempt. The exemptions under the Act are illogical, inconsistent, and contributing factors to our lawsuit. For instance, McDonald’s Inc. and 166 unions are exempt. Small employers are exempt. Individuals who practice certain faiths are exempt, while individuals who practice other faiths are not. Federal employees are exempt, and this is hypocritical. There is no exemption for the religious freedoms of employers.

Edenemployee benefits include health, dental, vision, life, and a fifty percent 401k match. The benefits have not funded “lifestyle drugs,” an insurance industry drug classification that includes contraceptives, Viagra, smoking cessation, weight-loss, infertility, impotency, etc. This entire plan is managed with a goal of long-term sustainability.

We believe in a woman’s right to decide, and have access to, all aspects of their health care and reproductive management. This lawsuit does not block, or intend to block, anyone’s access to health care or reproductive management. This lawsuit is about protecting religious freedom and stopping the government from forcing citizens to violate their conscience. We object to theHHSmandate and its government overreach.

This is an important matter that deserves attention from us all.

Our actions have been, and will remain, principled and transparent.Eden’s focus is pure food, ethical business practice, and the nurturing of all people and the planet.

Respectfully,

Michael Potter, President

From the Industrial Revolution to the Contraceptive Revolution

by Sharon Barrett

October 11, 2012

As MARRI intern Alex Schrider points out in Student Debate: Taxing Conscience, the HHS contraceptive mandate is a direct attack on religious freedom. It does more than require employers to deny their personal beliefs about life and contraception; it forces many (primarily conservative Catholics and Evangelical Protesants) to violate church teachings and religious convictions..

This is significant for more reasons than the obvious wrong of asking religious Americans to violate their conscience. It represents an attack on religion itself.

Historically, religious practice formed the fabric of American culture. From New England Puritans to Maryland Roman Catholics, colonists came to the New World seeking religious freedom. After the nation was established, revival meetings helped unify the ragged frontier. Immigrants from all ends of the globe relied on religion to keep their families and communities intact.

The twentieth century, however, saw a cultural about-face. The ostensibly conservative, religious postwar era gave way to urban riots and juvenile delinquency. America left the 1950s baby boom for the 1960s free love movement, followed by four decades of increase in non-marital births and decrease in the overall birth rate.

 

MARRIs Patrick Fagan and Henry Potrykus suggest part of the impetus behind this shift:

The contraceptive mindset…is of one cloth with the West shifting its economic orientation from family enterprise to individualist labor activity while simultaneously moving from religious to secular social values.

The Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century weakened both family life and the American economy, because industrialism severed the workplace from the home. Urbanization in the twentieth century further undermined ties to family and local community. As this shift happened, the religious values that emphasized marriage and the family as a context for childbearing also declined.

The shift in values has economic effects, as Alex Schrider explains:

MARRI has documented the effects of widespread contraceptive use: when birthrate decreases, the average age of a population increases, eventually leading to population decline. An aging and declining population is associated with economic problems, not the least of which is the substantial burden placed on the shoulders of the smaller, younger generation, which must provide for the disproportionately large elderly generation.

There is a solution, but it does not lie in the HHS mandate. Rather, according to Fagan and Potrykus,

Remediation lies in a re-adoption of stable marriage as a societal norm and the rejection by governments and peoples of this non-sustainable model of society a religious, sexually polymorphous, serial polygamy and its replacement by a less secular, more traditional, family-oriented life.

Rebuilding our culture and economy requires us to return to family-oriented values. To start this process, our culture must return to religion, which creates these values. The federal government should not attack the very bedrock of society with an ill-conceived mandate that smothers religious freedom.

The Casualties of the Healthcare Law

by Family Research Council

August 30, 2012

As we close out this historic month of August, 2012, I cant help but comment on a very sad day that marked the start of a new moment in American history. The infamous contraceptive mandate began its implementation stage on August 1, 2012, and on this day the landscape of the separation of Church and State as we have known it in the United States was drastically altered. On that day groups were forced to violate religious dictates and consciences on such matters as insurance coverage of contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs.

Those who have been following this debate will well remember that one year ago, the department of Health and Human Services used its regulatory power to mandate that the full range of Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptives be included in all health insurance plans, minus a very small group of religious employers, namely places of worship.

A massive public outcry ensued this decision, resulting in the Obama Administration announcing a purported accommodation last February (one that is yet to be worked through in any level of detail) as well as a one year safe haven for certain religious employers while they worked through the logistics of violating their consciences.

Organizations that do not fulfill the safe haven criteria include businesses, and groups that must not have provided any kind of contraception coverage before the February 10th regulation was issued. A number of lawsuits have been filed in response, including many asking for immediate injunctions against the mandate set to begin on Wednesday.

So who are the first casualties of the healthcare law? One such group is Weingartz Supply based out of Ann Arbor,Michigan. The organization provides supplies for lawn-mowing and snow removal. Until now the business, owned by a Catholic has not included contraception coverage, but now will be required to do so. Representing Weingartz and a Catholic business organization, Legatus, the Thomas More Law Center in Michigan filed a suit asking for an injunction from the mandate, but a hearing has not yet been set despite a May filing.

Similarly, a family-owned heating and cooling business in Colorado, Hercules, sought and received a temporary injunction the Friday before the mandate was to be implemented. But the injunction is specific to their family business, other groups are not covered.

Other casualties of the healthcare law include insurers and participants in the individual market who must to comply with the HHS Mandate as well as schools that have already removed health insurance coverage because of the HHS Mandate. To date this includes Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio as well as Ave Maria University in Florida. Note the irony, given that the goal of the healthcare law was to have more people covered, not less.

By far the vast majority of religious groups impacted by this mandate will feel the pinch once the safe harbor period (and the election) is over.

As we reflect upon this defining moment in history where HHS has in essence used regulatory power to redefine Church and State relations, I can still find comfort in the balance of power existing in our U.S. democratic system. The constitutionality of this regulation will ultimately be decided by the courts, where approximately 50 suits related to the HHS mandate currently wait to be heard.

Wheaton President Explains their Fight for Religious Freedom

by David Christensen

July 20, 2012

Kathryn Jean Lopez at National Review Online posted an insightful interview with Wheaton Colleges President, Philip Ryken. Wheaton College is known for being conservative in the sense of being evangelical, but it is not a political right wing institution. Its quite telling that President Ryken admits to being not overly political, yet, this HHS mandate on religious organizations was an eye opener. As recounted in Kathryns piece:

I am only moderately engaged in political issues,Wheatons president adds, and so it has been interesting to observe how precious liberties appear to me when they are in danger of being taken away. This has sort of awakened for me a latent passion for religious liberty. And I think plenty of our board members would say the same thing.

To read the full article, see here.

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