Still Unacceptable and Unconstitutional

Image: Still Unacceptable and Unconstitutional

HHS Proposed Rule still leaves religious Americans at risk

For Immediate Release:  February 1, 2013
Media Contact: Emily Hardman, ehardman@becketfund.org, 202.349.7224

WASHINGTON, DC –  Today’s announcement of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the HHS mandate leaves the religious liberty of millions of Americans unprotected.

“Today’s proposed rule does nothing to protect the religious freedom of millions of Americans. For instance, it does nothing to protect the rights of family businesses like Hobby Lobby,” said Kyle Duncan, General Counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.  “The administration obviously realizes that the HHS mandate puts constitutional rights at risk.  There would have been an easy way to resolve this—expanding the exemption—but the proposed rule expressly rejects that option.”

The proposed rule fails to fix the HHS mandate’s fundamental problems:

  • The proposed rule provides no coverage for family businesses like Hobby Lobby.
  • The proposed rule does not meaningfully expand the “church-only” exemption – which is the real relief that our clients are entitled to under our constitution.
  • For other religious non-profits, HHS proposes a convoluted “accommodation” that may not resolve religious organizations’ objections to being coerced into providing contraceptives and abortifacients to their employees.
  • Finally, the long-awaited rule provides no concrete guidance for religious groups that are self-insured.

“We are extremely disappointed with today’s announcement. HHS waited nearly a year and then gave us a proposed rule that still burdens religious liberty. It also gives no concrete guidance to self-insured religious organizations like Wheaton College. Given that today’s proposed rule was prompted in part by the D.C. Circuit’s order in the Wheaton College case, that is a remarkable and surprising omission,” says Kyle Duncan, General Counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.  “We remain committed to protecting religious liberty until the Administration recognizes the conscience rights of all Americans.”

There are now 44 separate lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate, which is a regulation under the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”).  The Becket Fund led the charge against the unconstitutional HHS mandate, and along with Hobby Lobby represents: Ave Maria University, Belmont Abbey College, Colorado Christian University, East Texas Baptist University, EWTN, Houston Baptist University, and Wheaton College.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty  is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 18 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. The Becket Fund recently won a 9-0 victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Emily Hardman, Communications Director, at ehardman@becketfund.org or call 202.349.7224.

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