Federal judge rules Christian colleges don’t have to comply with Obamacare contraception mandate
A federal court halted enforcement of Obamacare for two Christian colleges on Wednesday, a victory for those against employers paying for contraceptives, including the controversial “morning-after pill.”
The two schools, Cornerstone College in Michigan and Dordt College in Iowa, filed a lawsuit against the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, contesting the administration’s mandate that forces employers to provide contraceptives to employees, regardless of the organization’s religious practices and beliefs. In their suit, Dordt College v. Sebelius, the schools argue that the mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and is unconstitutional.
“The Schools hold, as a matter of religious conviction, that it would be sinful and immoral for them intentionally to participate in, pay for, facilitate, enable, or otherwise support access to abortion, which destroys human life.”
RFRA states that the government must have a compelling state interest, as well as pursue the least restrictive means of furthering that interest, when it comes to restricting religious freedom. U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett, who handed down the decision, wrote that the probable harm to the two colleges was greater than that of the supporters of the Affordable Care Act.
“They believe that God has condemned the intentional destruction of innocent human life,” the lawsuit states. “The Schools hold, as a matter of religious conviction, that it would be sinful and immoral for them intentionally to participate in, pay for, facilitate, enable, or otherwise support access to abortion, which destroys human life.”
The court’s decision only affects employees of the universities, which were represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, and not their students. For Dordt, that means it affects 191 employees it insures and their dependents.
Dordt President Erik Hoekstra said that, “[w]e’ll continue to monitor the situation, but we’re hopeful, and we expect the courts to ultimately reach the correct conclusion and protect religious freedom by declaring enforcement of the mandate unconstitutional.”
However, this decision is only temporary; the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule soon on similar situations regarding craft store Hobby Lobby and wood company Conestoga. Bennett said that he expects his ruling to be upheld if it is appealed.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @samantha_reinis