The recent battle over the Obama Administration’s HHS abortion pill mandate may seem confusing at times. There are many lawsuits, with a great deal of legal technicalities being thrown around in the litigation. So it may seem difficult to unravel exactly what is happening and what effect the mandate may have on your church, your church’s ministries, and the people in your congregation.
But one thing is certain; the battle over the abortion pill mandate is the premier religious liberty battle of our day. When the Obama Administration enacted the mandate, it essentially declared war on the free exercise of religion. It elevated sexual liberty over religious liberty. And it crystallized the issue into stark terms. Simply put, if the Obama Administration can force you to violate your religious freedom, then it can force anyone to do anything.
Pastors should be well-informed about this battle considering its impact on the religious freedom of churches, religious organizations, and religious business owners. Alliance Defending Freedom is at the forefront of the litigation over the constitutionality of the abortion pill mandate and, based on our experience, here is what you need to know at this stage of the battle:
We Are Winning!
The vast majority of cases filed on behalf of for-profit businesses have resulted in injunctions against the abortion pill mandate. For an up-to-date scorecard of the cases in litigation, click here. It is important for you as a pastor to know this battle is winnable. And not only is it winnable, Alliance Defending Freedom and our allies are in fact winning.
But the fact that we are winning should not breed complacency. The Obama Administration has appealed in every case where we have obtained an injunction. The battleground has shifted now from the federal district courts to the federal appellate courts. There is reason for optimism, but we must temper our optimism with the realization that the battle is far from over. Winning a skirmish does not equate to winning the war.
It is likely that one or more of these cases will be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. There are simply too many of them percolating in the lower courts for the Supreme Court to ignore.
The “New Rule” is still unconstitutional
Last year, after several groups filed lawsuits against the abortion pill mandate, the Obama Administration announced a “compromise.” It would enact a one-year “safe harbor” for nonprofit religious organizations and then begin the process of adopting a new rule that might exempt more religious organizations from the mandate.
The “safe harbor” did not apply to regular for-profit businesses where the owners seek to run their businesses according to their religious faith. That’s why several for-profit businesses had no choice but to file lawsuits and seek injunctions.
After a year of thinking about it, the Obama Administration announced a proposed new rule for who can be exempt from the abortion pill mandate. Here is how the new rule breaks down:
Churches: Under the proposed new rule, churches remain exempt from the mandate as do conventions or associations of churches, integrated auxiliaries of churches, and religious orders. An “integrated auxiliary of a church” is an organization affiliated with and predominately supported by a church. An example of an integrated auxiliary of a church is a homeless shelter controlled and funded by a church.
Religious Organizations: The proposed rule does not completely exempt religious nonprofit organizations. It simply shifts the burden of providing contraceptive and abortion-inducing drugs to the insurer selected by the religious nonprofit. This is no compromise at all. The Obama Administration claims the insurer will provide the coverage for free and there should be no conflict with the religious organization’s faith. But this simply ignores reality. The insurers will pass on that cost to the organizations paying for the insurance. They won’t just provide coverage for these drugs out of the goodness of their hearts. In the end, the religious organization will still be on the hook to pay for these abortion-inducing drugs in some way. So the proposed rule does not protect religious freedom for religious nonprofit organizations.
For-Profit Businesses: The proposed rule offers no exemption at all for any for-profit business. This even includes businesses like Tyndale House Bible Publishers, which the Obama Administration strenuously argues is not religious enough to qualify for an exemption from the abortion pill mandate. Business owners who seek to run their businesses in accordance with their religious faith have no exemption and no refuge from the mandate.
As a pastor, you need to be aware that the effect of the abortion pill mandate will fall most heavily on business owners in your church who employ more than 50 people. They will have no choice but to either comply with the mandate or face crippling fines that may drive them from the marketplace. Your church can, and should, come around these brave business owners and support them in the battle to preserve their religious freedom.
We must continue to fight this battle – and win! Please stay informed about what is happening with the battle against the Obama Administration’s abortion pill mandate. Visit our Obamacare resource page for up-to-date information to inform your congregation about what is happening. Often the media does not report the facts correctly about the cases we are fighting.
And please pray for victory. Pray for the courageous lawyers at Alliance Defending Freedom and our allies who are fighting in court to preserve religious freedom – our first freedom. And pray for the judges who will hear these cases that the Lord will direct their hearts and minds to preserve the right of individuals, organizations, and businesses to live their faith in the public square.
This battle is far from over. But together, as our name says, we can be an Alliance Defending Freedom. We’ll keep you updated as this important issue advances.