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  • Court Rebukes Obama Administration’s “Trust Us” Revision of the HHS Mandate

    The influential D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a short procedural order rebuking the Obama Administration in a lawsuit that was filed by Wheaton College and Belmont Abbey College. The two religiously affiliated organizations had challenged the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) anti-conscience mandate that requires them to fund health care plans for their employees that provide abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization, or else pay substantial penalties.

    As discussed in a Heritage Legal Memorandum, the plaintiffs have very strong claims that the mandate violates their rights under the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

    Following the uproar that ensued after the mandate was issued, the government announced a one-year, temporary enforcement suspension against some religious employers. The Obama Administration misleadingly labeled this move a “safe harbor.” The Administration then announced its intention to develop and propose changes to the HHS mandate that would provide contraceptive coverage without cost-sharing to covered individuals while at the same time accommodating the religious objections of nonprofit organizations like the plaintiffs.

    In light of this non-binding promise to make some hypothetical policy changes that would supposedly assuage objectors’ concerns, some lower courts dismissed this and other similar lawsuits as being premature. But the D.C. Circuit has now indicated that it is prepared to hold the government’s feet to the fire, so to speak.

    The D.C. Circuit’s ruling not only keeps the case alive, but also highlighted two concessions that government lawyers made during the oral argument of the case. First, the government promised “it would never enforce [the mandate] in its current form” against the plaintiffs or other similarly situated religious groups. Second, the government promised it would publish a proposed new rule “in the first quarter of 2013” and would finalize it by next August.

    With respect to both assertions, the court stated, “We take the government at its word and will hold it to it.” The court stated that it “will hold these cases in abeyance, subject to regular status reports to be filed by the government with this court every 60 days.”

    This ruling mirrors a recent decision by a federal judge from the Eastern District of New York, who rejected an identical argument by the government in a case that was filed by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, Catholic Health Care Systems, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre and Catholic Charities, and Catholic Health Services of Long Island. As the judge in that case succinctly and compellingly observed, “[T]he First Amendment does not require citizens to accept assurances from the government that, if the government later determines it has made a misstep, it will take ameliorative action. There is no, ‘Trust us, changes are coming’ clause in the Constitution.”

    The HHS mandate gives unprecedented power to the federal government to dictate how religiously affiliated institutions must behave, ignoring their religious identity and weakening the important role they play in society. Religious freedom is the birthright of every American. Let us hope that the courts uphold this important principle and give full measure to protecting our cherished First Freedom.

    Posted in Featured, Obamacare [slideshow_deploy]

    3 Responses to Court Rebukes Obama Administration’s “Trust Us” Revision of the HHS Mandate

    1. KJinAZ says:

      Our justice system failed when the court decided that the government can tax us for these benifits. I would argue that this is not a tax, but a fine for failure to participate in the government run healthcare system. The so called tax does not provide you benefits, so it is a fine. This IS a violation of our commerce laws. There is NO means for our government to make anyone participate in any free market.

      The religious argument also applies to the argument dor citizens who do not believe in American medicine. There are no insurance programs available that cover alternative medicine, and the free people in America have a right to choose their form of healthcare. Since the current system being setup totally ignores these peoples rights it is not legal. Our courts failed to even acknowledge this issue, which should have been used to overturn this legislation. The people in DC cannot take away our right to our own decisions on our own healthcare.

    2. Bobbie says:

      Personal matters belong with personal responsibilities. Sexual accommodations in any manner is not the role of government. But it is a a direct violation by the government of the first amendment and government infringement on one faith of people stands to reason why? Why government run schools are omitted from any recognition or words that reflect Christmas? Why is ANYONE COMPLYING??

      How can this be ":premature" when it's recognized with hypothetical policies? We the people are wise enough to know that words without integrity mean nothing. This government wanna be is beneath American civility, principles and values. People are above this type of low life leadership. Dismissal is required!

      Is it a paranoia in government that people will freely choose to convert? Whatever their deal, it's wrong and unAmerican to oppress anyone…

      I heard some special interests paid by America's tax dollars are in public schools promoting Islamic Muslim faith. STOP AND TAKE CORRECTIVE ACTIONS IMMEDIATELY. In America private religion makes it a private matter violating public education and consent Funding for private education rightly comes out of their stingy private pockets! HOW RUDE!!!! What are they doing here IN DEFIANCE of America's way supported by an underhanded, abusive government? STOP THIS TREASON!!!!!!

      When rights cost money to exercise, it's the responsibility of those that choose to exercise those rights to pay for them at any income level!! SOME RIGHTS ARE EARNED!! Fishing, drivers, voting, religious education all choices to commence or not but unAmerican for tax dollars to pay. Stop this governing insubordination! America is being taken over by force!!. Address it and stop it!!!!

    3. Ron Galloy says:

      Yes, we certainly can't trust the government. If we can't trust them to protect life itself, and instead protect destroying it in our earliest and most vulnerable form, as the unborn child, why would anyone trust them for any other reason? Why would anyone trust someone who presents killing itself as a human right, as in "privacy rights," "right to choose," "right to the body," "abortion rights," "women's rights" and "health care rights." In so doing one trusts another in deception itself. Murder by another name is murder just the same.

      It is the height of inconsistency for former unborn children to defend killing unborn children, and always in dishonest ways. When one isn't able to be honest about what abortion is, it is foolish to trust them in any other lesser venue.

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