HHS Abortion-Pill 'Accommodation' Still Unacceptable
Less than 24 hours after being socked on the chin by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in the Hobby Lobby case, the Obama Administration showed that it is still incapable of understanding reality when it comes to religious liberty. In the latest version of the “Final Rules” – known better as the “HHS Mandate” – the Administration offers religious groups such as the Little Sisters of the Poor and Louisiana Baptist College the same carrot they’ve been dangling before them for over a year – “you provide your employees a health insurance plan that excludes drugs you have religious objections to, including abortion-inducing drugs, and we’ll magically make sure they get them anyway.” How this is to happen technically is spelled out in 110 pages of bureaucratic gobbledygook that has as a goal (so the government assures us) “respecting the concerns of nonprofit religious organizations that object to contraceptive coverage.”
The Founders didn’t need 110 pages – or even one page -- to protect religious liberty. They needed only one sentence, the sentence that stands at the top of our Bill of Rights: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” But as this latest effort of the Administration amply proves, along with the arguments it continues to make in courtrooms around the Nation, our current regime sees religious liberty as an annoying obstacle to the fulfillment of its ideological agenda, something to be doled out sparingly as a matter of bureaucratic largesse, something to be bargained about with those citizens backward enough to think that their duties to God are more important than getting on board the secularist juggernaut.
It remains to be seen how religious organizations will respond to today’s action. More than 30 lawsuits have been filed by religious organizations against previous versions of the Mandate. When this rule was proposed a few months ago, many of those groups expressed their dissatisfaction with it, and there is nothing substantively new in what the government announced today. It seems likely that those cases will go on.
One thing that does not remain to be seen, however, is what today’s action means for for-profit business owners who also have religious objections to what the Mandate requires. Today’s issuance of the “Final Rules” changes nothing for our clients. More than 30 such business owners have sued over the Mandate. ACLJ currently represents 7 of them. For these citizens the Administration offers nothing but an ultimatum: “Obey Caesar, or go bankrupt.”
Fortunately, the majority of courts do not share the Administration’s hostility to our first freedom. Indeed, of the 30-some courts that have ruled on the for-profit cases so far, 23 have issued orders that recognize and protect the right of a for-profit business owner to opt-out of the Mandate, including in all 7 cases filed by the ACLJ. And, in yesterday’s blockbuster decision by the 10th Circuit in Hobby Lobby, the court dissected and rejected unequivocally each and every one of the sophistical arguments the Administration has been making against the religious liberty claims being made by our clients and dozens of others.
The cases brought by these brave citizens remain alive and unaffected by today’s HHS action. We will continue to vigorously litigate them, likely all the way to the Supreme Court, in our ongoing efforts to safeguard the fundamental right to the free exercise of religion.