Media Information Sheet – HHS

Little Sisters of the Poor, GuideStone v. Sebelius, East Texas Baptist University, Houston Baptist University, Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., Wheaton College v. Sebelius,  Ave Maria University v. Sebelius, EWTN v. Sebelius, Belmont Abbey College v. Sebelius,  Colorado Christian University v. Sebelius

  • On the heels of the Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act, the Becket Fund’s lawsuits against the HHS mandate lawsuits move forward.
  • The Health and Human Services mandate, under a provision of the Affordable Care Act, requires all group health plans to include “[a]ll Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity,” including Plan B (“the morning after pill”) and ella (“the week after pill”) (see p 8730).
  • To fund, facilitate, or pay for such drugs is in direct violation of many religious groups’ beliefs.
  • The Becket Fund led the charge to legally challenge this mandate.  The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty currently represents ten clients:
  • GuideStone Financial Resources (the benefits arm of the Southern Baptist Convention), Reaching Souls International (a nonprofit evangelistic ministry dedicated to preaching the Gospel and caring for orphans in Africa, India, and Cuba) and Truett-McConnell College (a Southern Baptist college dedicated to providing a biblically-centered education) filed the second class-action suit challenging the mandate. The class represents 100 Christian ministries that cannot comply with the federal government’s mandate that they provide employees with free access to abortion-inducing drugs and devices.  Filed October 11, 2013.
  • The Little Sisters of the Poor, an international Roman Catholic Congregation of Religious Sisters, is challenging the government’s mandate with the first-class action suit to uphold their right to carry out their vows of obedience in their service to the poor. Believing that every human person has God-given worth, the Little Sisters cannot provide contraceptive, abortion, and sterilization services that go against their religious beliefs.  Filed September 24, 2013.
  • East Texas Baptist University and Houston Baptist University have a few things in common: Both are Christian liberal arts colleges in Texas, both hold faith central to their educational missions, and both are standing up to the HHS mandate, which forces them to violate their conscience or pay crippling fines. Filed October 9, 2012.
  • The Becket Fund represents Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.  Devout Christians, the Green family believes that “it is by God’s grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has endured.” Therefore, the Greens seek to honor God by “operating their company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles.”  Filed September 12, 2012
  • Wheaton College (Wheaton, Ill.), an evangelical Christian, academically rigorous liberal arts college and graduate school noted for its consistent ranking among the top liberal arts colleges in the country, under the motto “For Christ and His Kingdom.” In an unprecedented step, Wheaton College joined the lawsuit with The Catholic University of America, filing on the heels of the Supreme Court Affordable Care Act decision.  Filed June 18, 2012.
  • Ave Maria University, a private Catholic University dedicated to transmitting authentic Catholic values to students, who can then carry those values to the world.  The federal mandate has puts Ave Maria to a terrible choice: Either it betrays its faith and covers the drugs, or else it ends employee health benefits and pays hundreds of thousands in annual fines.  Filed February 21, 2012.
  • Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), founded 30 years ago by a cloistered nun named Mother Angelica who started a small television network in her garage to spread the teachings of the Catholic Church.  Today EWTN is run by lay Catholics, who refuse to pay for contraceptive services and for drugs that destroy human life.   Filed February 8, 2012.
  • Colorado Christian University (CCU), a Christian liberal arts university located near Denver, Colorado. Established in 1914, faith is central to the educational mission of Colorado Christian, which describes itself as a Christ-centered community” and commits, in its mission, to “exemplary academics, spiritual formation, and engagement with the world.” As a Christian college, Colorado Christian respects and teaches the sanctity of life at all stages, and that abortions are against God’s lawFiled December 22, 2011.
  • Belmont Abbey College (BAC), a small Catholic liberal arts college located in Belmont, North Carolina. Founded in 1876 by Benedictine monks, Belmont Abbey’s mission is to “educate students in the liberal arts and sciences so that in all things God may be glorified.” As a Catholic college, Belmont Abbey teaches that contraception, sterilization, and abortion are against God’s law.   Filed November 10, 2011.
  • East Texas Baptist University, Houston Baptist University, Wheaton, AMU, EWTN, BAC and CCU believe they will not be excluded from the requirements of the government mandate under the religious employer exemption. The exemption is extremely narrow, covering only certain religious employers whose purpose is to inculcate religious values and which employ and serve those of their same faith. As a result, many religious colleges and universities, social service organizations, and hospitals will not qualify for the exemption.
  • Because of the government mandate, these religious organizations are forced to provide free contraception, sterilization, abortion drugs, and related education and counseling against their religious beliefs, or terminate their health insurance for employees and students and pay a substantial fine, with fines increasing in subsequent years.
  • The Becket Fund filed suit to protect their First Amendment and federal statutory rights to be free from this government-imposed substantial burden on religious freedom.

Procedural History of Mandate:

  • As part of Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, all group health plans must provide—at no cost to the recipient—certain “preventive services.”
  • In September 2010, the government announced a general list of “preventive services,” but asked the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to recommend a list of “preventive services for women.” Religious groups urged the IOM to not include sterilization and contraceptive services in the mandate.
  • In August of 2011, the IOM’s recommendations that included these two services were adopted by the government, requiring coverage for “[a]ll Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity.”  This includes Plan B (“the morning after pill”) and ella (“the week after pill”).
  • On February 10, 2012, after a firestorm of opposition from across the political and religious spectrum, President Obama held a press conference to announce a “compromise” which included: 1) delayed enforcement of the mandate to allow religious institutions to comply with the mandate and 2), the promise that in a rule yet to be developed, insurance companies—not the religious employers themselves—would be forced to pay for the abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception.
  • However, the only change the Administration did was to finalize the August 2011 mandate—leaving intact all of its provisions and making no changes to the exemption, the narrowest protection for conscience known in federal or state law.
  • On March 16, 2012, the Administration introduced the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rule Making (ANPRM) which outlined intention to fashion a new rule where insurance companies would pay for the abortion-drug services, not the employer directly.  The ANPRM also opened up for public comment until June 19, 2012.
  • Opponents of the mandate outlined the following problems with the proposed rule: 1) Many religious organizations self-insure, and cannot go through an insurer; 2) many individuals and organizations are not covered by the proposed “accommodation” and are still forced to violate their religious beliefs; 3) The proposed “accommodation” does not address the core problem with the HHS mandate, meaning that even many organizations that are covered by the “accommodation” are still forced to violate their religious beliefs; 4) The “accommodation” is legally unworkable because the Administration lacks the authority to initiate the so-called “insurance mandate; 5) and, having religious institutions pay for these services “indirectly” is still morally problematic.

ATTRIBUTABLE QUOTES FOR MEDIA USE:

Regarding HHS Mandate Generally: 

  • “Essentially the administration is saying, ‘We take your religious principles very seriously–so we’re giving you an extra year to get over them.’”  — Hannah Smith, Senior Legal Counsel, Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
  • “The Government refuses to give the same accommodations to groups exercising their fundamental First Amendment freedoms as they do to corporations such as McDonald’s and teachers’ unions.”  – Hannah Smith, Senior Legal Counsel, Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
  • “No employer, particularly in this economy, should be forced to make the choice between violating its deeply held religious beliefs or terminating its health insurance plans for employees and paying a heavy fine.”  – Hannah Smith, Senior Legal Counsel, Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
  • “The mandate is un-American, unprecedented, and flagrantly unconstitutional.”   – Hannah Smith, Senior Legal Counsel, Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
  • “Freedom of conscience is a ‘first freedom.’ If government can force monks to pay for abortion drugs, what can’t government do?”Hannah Smith, Senior Legal Counsel, Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

For Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.:

  •  “By being required to make a choice between sacrificing our faith or paying millions of dollars in fines, we essentially must choose which poison pill to swallow,” said David Green, Hobby Lobby CEO and founder. “We simply cannot abandon our religious beliefs to comply with this mandate.”
  • “By being required to make a choice between sacrificing our faith or paying millions of dollars in fines, we essentially must choose which poison pill to swallow,” said David Green, Hobby Lobby CEO and founder. “We simply cannot abandon our religious beliefs to comply with this mandate.

For East Texas Baptist University and Houston Baptist University:

  • “Baptists have always advocated religious liberty, and religious liberty is what is at stake in this situation,” says Dr. Samuel Oliver, President, East Texas Baptist University. “As the famous Baptist preacher, George W. Truett once remarked, ‘A Baptist would rise at midnight to plead for absolute religious liberty for his Catholic neighbor, and for his Jewish neighbor, and for everybody else.’ We are rising today to ensure that religious liberty, the first freedom guaranteed in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, is protected and preserved.”
  • “While we are always reluctant to enter into lawsuits, the government has given us no choice,” says Dr. Robert Sloan, President, Houston Baptist University. “Either we violate our conscience or give in to the administration’s heavy-handed attack upon our religious freedom. We will not comply with this unconstitutional mandate, and we plead with our government to respect the liberties given by God and enunciated in the Bill of Rights.”
  • “Baptists in America, by virtue of their history, are particularly sensitive to coercive government actions that infringe on religious liberty,” says Eric Rassbach, Deputy General Counsel for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which filed suit this morning on behalf of the Universities.  “America’s first Baptist leader, Roger Williams, had to flee Massachusetts and found a colony in Providence, Rhode Island, because his religious beliefs were not tolerated by the laws of Massachusetts.  We shouldn’t have to fight for that same right today.”

For Wheaton College:

  • “Wheaton College and other distinctively Christian institutions are faced with a clear and present threat to our religious liberty. Our first president, the abolitionist Jonathan Blanchard, believed it was imperative for him to act in defense of freedom. In bringing this suit, we act in defense of freedom again.” –President Philip Ryken
  • ”This mandate violates the First Amendment rights of anyone who believes for religious reasons in the sanctity of human life. This is true not only for Roman Catholics who oppose all forms of contraception, but also for Protestants and others who believe the use of contraception for the purpose of abortion is immoral.” –President Philip Ryken
  • “Americans who value liberty should hope a remedy is found. The freedom of religion is one of our first freedoms—a freedom that comes before all others. It should be protected, not infringed upon.” –President Philip Ryken
  • “As the president of the national university of the Catholic Church, I am happy to express solidarity with our evangelical brothers and sisters from Wheaton College as they challenge the HHS mandate. Wheaton’s lawsuit is another sign of how troubling many people of faith find the government’s efforts to chip away at our first freedom,” –President John Garvey, The Catholic University of America

For Ave Maria University:

  • “It is a sad day when an American citizen or organization has no choice but to sue its own government in order to exercise religious liberty rights guaranteed by our nation’s Constitution.”  – President Jim Towey
  • “Allowing a U.S. president of any political party or religious affiliation to force conformance to his or her religious or secular orthodoxy through executive action, is a perilous precedent.”  – President Jim Towey

For EWTN:

  • “Mother Angelica founded EWTN to spread the teachings of the Catholic Church—not to betray them.” –- Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
  • “If we are willing to compromise our Catholic faith, we are selling the soul of the station. The mission of EWTN is not negotiable.” — Michael P. Warsaw, President and Chief Executive Officer, EWTN

For Belmont Abbey College:

  • “A monk at Belmont Abbey may preach on Sunday that pre-marital sex, contraception, and abortions are immoral, but on Monday, the government forces him to pay for students to receive the very drugs and procedures he denounced.”  — Hannah Smith, Senior Legal Counsel, Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

For Colorado Christian:

  • “If the Administration thought that conscience objections to this HHS mandate would be muted or isolated, Colorado Christian’s lawsuit proves otherwise. Evangelical Christians have now joined Catholics to defend their religious rights.” — Hannah Smith, Senior Legal Counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
  • “Abortion is a highly controversial issue in American life. Some of our fellow citizens believe abortion is a fundamental right while others are equally sincere in the conviction that abortion is morally wrong in all, or almost all circumstances. But that is not the issue raised by the HHS regulations. The question is—may a government agency compel support of abortions by those whose religious convictions forbid them from doing so. The law does not permit such compulsion, in our opinion, nor will the conscience of our fellow citizens, whether abortion proponents or opponents.” — President Bill Armstrong, President of Colorado Christian and former US Senator

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