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Federal Government Requires Non-Profit Ministries to Violate Their Conscience and Provide Insurance Coverage for Abortion-Inducing Drugs

Insight for Living Ministries is the international Bible-teaching ministry of well-known ministry leader Pastor Charles R. Swindoll. Pastor Swindoll is the former President and current Chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) and the Founder and Senior Pastor-Teacher of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas.

IFLM’s sincerely-held religious beliefs prevent the ministry from participating in any way in the destruction of an unborn human life, including facilitating the provision of abortion-inducing drugs and devices.

However, after the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (also known as “Obamacare”), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a mandate requiring organizations to provide employees with insurance coverage for FDA-approved contraceptives, including some abortion-inducing drugs and devices such as Ella (the “week-after pill”) and Plan-B (the “day-after pill”).

The mandate, as originally conceived, only exempts churches, church denominations, and church auxiliaries. It does not exempt non-profit ministries, such as IFLM, with religious objections to providing the abortion-inducing drugs and devices.

Under considerable pressure, the Obama Administration crafted a so-called “accommodation” for non-profits with religious objections to the mandate. However, the “accommodation” was extremely problematic and still required ministries to facilitate the provision of abortion-inducing drugs.

Despite the ministry’s religious beliefs, IFLM would have faced penalties of $100 per day per employee or the loss of its insurance coverage for not complying with the mandate and its “accommodation.” These penalties would have imposed severe consequences for the ministry, which has dozens of employees and is a vibrant, international outreach.

In June 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Hobby Lobby v. Burwell that the federal government could not force faith-based, for-profit businesses to comply with the mandate against business owners’ religious beliefs. However, the Court left unresolved the claims of non-profit ministries with religious objections to the mandate and its so-called “accommodation.”

First Liberty Seeks an Exemption for IFLM

On October 22, 2014, First Liberty Institute filed a lawsuit on behalf of IFLM against the federal government. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, sought judicial relief from the mandate, including a preliminary injunction so the ministry would not have to comply with the mandate or pay fines while the case made its way through the court system.

On November 12, 2014, United States Magistrate Judge Don Bush issued a preliminary injunction in favor of IFLM. But in January 2015, the federal government decided to appeal the preliminary injunction granted to IFLM, sending the matter regarding the injunction to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

Meanwhile, after multiple lawsuits were filed across the country, the U.S. Supreme Court in November 2015 agreed to hear the claims of seven faith-based non-profit ministries challenging the mandate, including Little Sisters of the Poor, a ministry of nuns who take care of the poor and elderly.

In May 2016, the Supreme Court sent the cases back to the lower courts with instructions for the Obama administration to seek to authentically accommodate the ministries. But, the Obama administration left office without providing any relief for organizations like IFLM.

The Latest: Trump Administration Provides Exemption & Settles with First Liberty Clients

In July, First Liberty attorneys, led by lead counsel Matthew Kacsmaryk, sent a letter on behalf of their clients to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and held in-person, on-the-record meetings with agency officials tasked with reviewing the rules related to the ACA. But, ultimately, it was the Trump Administration that brought to a swift conclusion to a mandate that posed such a threat to the conscience of millions of Americans.

On October 6, 2017, the Trump administration recognized the burden the mandate placed upon the religious beliefs and moral convictions and announced a new interim final rule for implementation of the ACA, exempting IFLM and other nonprofit organizations from the contraceptive mandate. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. Department of Justice settled its case with IFLM, ending three years of litigation.

“Our clients can now get back to serving others instead of defending themselves against the government’s attacks on their faith,” said Jeremy Dys, Deputy General Counsel for First Liberty Institute. “The Trump administration is right to let this be a decision between these ministries and the God they serve, rather than impose the government’s beliefs on these ministries. The last three years of litigation could have been avoided entirely if the Obama administration had simply recognized that the First Amendment protects the rights conscience of these religious ministries against an administration intent on coercing their obedience. We are grateful that the Trump administration has agreed to end this unnecessary and harmful assault on religious liberty.”

Press Release
For Immediate Release: October 31, 2017

Contact: Lacey McNiel, media@firstliberty.org

Direct: 972-941-4453

 

DOJ Agrees to Final Relief to First Liberty Clients Seeking

Exemption from Obamacare Mandate

Settlement builds on critical religious liberty protections recently announced by the Trump administration


WASHINGTON, DC—After three years of litigation, First Liberty Institute clients Insight for Living Ministries (IFLM) and several ministries of the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination (CMA) today received final relief from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in their fight for an exemption from the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) contraceptive mandate. The mandate forced ministries and other nonprofit organizations into the unnavigable position of adhering to their religious beliefs and obeying the law.

Today’s action by the DOJ comes less than a month after the Trump administration announced a new interim final rule that rolls back the Obama-era, so-called “contraceptive mandate.” Today’s settlement provides similar exemptions and prevents future administrations from targeting the religious conscience of these ministries in the future.

“Our clients can now get back to serving others instead of defending themselves against the government’s attacks on their faith,” said Jeremy Dys, Deputy General Counsel for First Liberty Institute. “The Trump administration is right to let this be a decision between these ministries and the God they serve, rather than impose the government’s beliefs on these ministries.”

In July, First Liberty attorneys, led by lead counsel Matthew Kacsmaryk, sent a letter on behalf of their clients to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and held in-person, on-the-record meetings with agency officials tasked with reviewing the rules related to the ACA. But, ultimately, it was the Trump Administration that brought to a swift conclusion to a mandate that posed such a threat to the conscience of millions of Americans.

“The last three years of litigation could have been avoided entirely if the Obama administration had simply recognized that the First Amendment protects the rights conscience of these religious ministries against an administration intent on coercing their obedience,” Dys said. “We are grateful that the Trump administration has agreed to end this unnecessary and harmful assault on religious liberty.”

To learn more, visit FirstLiberty.org/HHSMandate.

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About First Liberty Institute

First Liberty Institute is a non-profit public interest law firm and the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.

To arrange an interview, contact Lacey McNiel at media@firstliberty.org or by calling 972-941-4453.

 

To download this press release, please click here.


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