On Friday, a federal district court granted nearly 200 evangelical ministries relief from the administration’s contraceptive and abortifacient mandate. All the non-exempt religious organizations that provide their employees with health benefits through GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention—including lead plaintiffs Truett-McConnell CollegeReaching Souls International—are now protected from the mandate while their case proceeds. These evangelical organizations only object to four out of twenty FDA-approved contraceptives—those like the “morning after pill” and the “week after pill” that may cause early abortions. The court’s order is an early Christmas gift that came just days before the January 1, 2014 deadline that would have forced the ministries to choose between following their religious beliefs about the sanctity of life and paying thousands of dollars a day in fines.
“This is an overwhelming victory for GuideStone and the nearly 200 plaintiffs in this class-action lawsuit,” said Adèle Keim, Legal Counsel for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, and attorney for GuideStone. “For over 200 years, Baptists in America have stood for religious liberty for all. Today’s ruling will allow hundreds of Baptist ministries to continue preaching the Gospel and serving the poor this Christmas, without laboring under the threat of massive fines.” The Becket Fund is co-counsel on the case with Locke Lord LLP and Conner & Winters LLP.
The class, represented by Reaching Souls International and Truett-McConnellCollege, includes 187 ministries that currently receive health benefits through GuideStone, the health benefits arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. Reaching Souls International trains pastors and cares for orphans in Africa, India, and Cuba, and Truett-McConnell College is a Georgia Baptist college.
Following a hearing on Monday, the federal district court granted GuideStone, Truett-McConnell College, and Reaching Souls injunctive relief from the government’s mandate. The court’s order protects all of the ministries that receive health benefits through GuideStone and are not otherwise exempt from the HHS mandate. The court opinion reads, “Upon consideration, the Court finds Defendants’ argument to be simply another variation of a proposition rejected by the court of appeals in Hobby Lobby.”
This is the first class-action victory against the mandate, and the sixth injunction among the non-profit challengers.
The Becket Fund also represents Hobby Lobby, whose case will be heard by the Supreme Court in 2014.