HHS Mandate | Cases | First Liberty

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

Insight for Living Ministries (IFLM) 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.

The Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA) is a nonprofit, Christian denomination including over 500,000 worshipers in 2,000 churches across the United States. CMA is also affiliated with religious colleges and retirement communities employing hundreds of people.

The sincerely held religious beliefs of both IFLM and CMA prevent their ministries from participating in any way in the destruction of an unborn human life, including facilitating the provision of abortion-inducing drugs and devices. However, following the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), 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 did not exempt nonprofit ministries, such as IFLM and CMA, with religious objections to providing the abortion-inducing drugs and devices.

The federal government put IFLM and CMA in a position where they had to choose between obeying the law and standing by their religious convictions in the face of steep monetary penalties.

First Liberty Seeks an Exemption for IFLM & CMA

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 contraceptive mandate against business owners’ religious beliefs. However, the Court left unresolved the claims of nonprofit ministries with religious objections to the mandate.

First Liberty Institute filed a lawsuit against the federal government in October 2014 on behalf of IFLM and CMA. After other nonprofit organizations across the country filed similar lawsuits, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the claims of seven faith-based nonprofit ministries challenging the mandate, including Little Sisters of the Poor, a ministry of nuns who take care of the poor and elderly.

The Supreme Court sent the cases back to the lower courts in 2016 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 and CMA.

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 cases with IFLM and CMA, 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: March 27, 2018
Contact: Lacey McNiel, media@firstliberty.org
Direct: 972-941-4453

First Liberty Institute Files Comment in Support of Conscience Protections for Health Care Professionals

Group files public comments on behalf of several religious ministries supporting new HHS guidelines


Washington, DC—First Liberty Institute attorneys today submitted public comments on behalf of several religious ministries in support of new United States Health and Human Services (“HHS”) guidelines that ensure the protection of conscience rights for health care professionals.

“Without conscience protections, health care professionals across America risk discrimination for refusing to perform, facilitate, or refer for procedures that they believe are unethical,” said Stephanie Taub, Senior Counsel. “The proposed HHS rules will serve to protect the rights of healthcare professionals to uphold the tenets of the Hippocratic Oath and the ethical integrity of the medical profession.”

The comments, drafted by First Liberty attorneys on behalf of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, the National Association of Catholic Nurses, U.S.A., the Thomas More Society, and the Christian and Missionary Alliance, supports efforts by the Trump administration to ensure that twenty-five presently existing laws protecting healthcare providers are implemented and enforced by HHS. The proposed guidelines provide significant conscience protections for those who hold religious or moral objections to abortion, sterilization, or euthanasia.

According to the comment, there has been “a rise in intolerance toward individuals seeking to exercise their conscience rights and a general lack of awareness about the conscience rights of healthcare practitioners. The sharp increase in administrative complaints over the past year shows that without an administrative enforcement mechanism, coercions of conscience may continue unchecked. Administrative enforcement is necessary to ensure that existing conscience statutes carry the force of law.”

To read the comments, click here.

To download a copy of this press release, click here.

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About First Liberty Institute

First Liberty Institute is 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.

 


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Dear Coach Kennedy,

I would like to say thank you. Your dedication to your faith and your commitment to the positive education of our youth is truly admirable. I am deeply grateful for your military service and for taking a courageous stance in protecting religious liberty rights for teachers and administrators.

If our First Amendment protects a player’s right to kneel in protest, it certainly protects your right to kneel in prayer.

I was shocked to learn that Bremerton High School suspended you after denying your request to continue your wholesome practice of giving thanks after football games.

The Bremerton School District’s actions violate the law and send the wrong message to coaches, young people, our communities, and our nation — a message of hostility to religious freedom and intolerance toward personal religious expression.

Please know that you are not alone in this difficult time — I support you and First Liberty as you continue to fight for religious freedom! Our schools need more coaches like you, our country needs more citizens like you, and our world needs more people like you.