Injunction Granted in Southern Baptist Contraception Case

Sunday, 22 Dec 2013 09:21 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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A federal judge in Oklahoma City has granted an injunction to block an Obamacare mandate that religion-based groups provide insurance allowing access to the morning after pill and other contraceptives.

Friday's preliminary injunction came in favor of a class-action lawsuit that 187 ministries filed in October, reports Fox News. The group insurance provides benefits through GuideStone Financial Resources, which operates through the Southern Baptist Convention.

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The ministries objected to providing four of 20 different contraceptives approved by the Food and Drug Administration, including both the morning-after and week-after pills, which opponents believe may cause early abortions.

"This is an overwhelming victory for GuideStone and the nearly 200 plaintiffs in this class-action lawsuit," said Adele Keim, a lawyer for GuideStone and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which helped represent the ministries. "Today’s ruling will allow hundreds of Baptist ministries to continue preaching the Gospel and serving the poor … without laboring under the threat of massive fines."

The insurance groups must comply with other Obamacare regulations, the ruling states, but the injunction prevents the government from enforcing the mandate as the suit continues, and will help the religious groups avoid massive fines.

Federal Judge Timothy DeGiusti said the ministries have the right to challenge the contraceptive mandate, ruling an injunction was needed to keep the government from forcing the provision on them.

Friday's ruling came just days after a New York judge ruled that non-exempt religious groups are not bound by the Affordable Care Act's mandate requiring coverage for contraceptives and other birth control options.

In the ruling, Brooklyn Federal Court Judge Brian Cogan barred the government from enforcing the mandate against Catholic Health Care System, Catholic Health Services of Long Island, Cardinal Spellman High School and Monsignor Farrell High School.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York and the health and educational groups had challenged the mandate on religious freedom grounds. The federal government later issued a rule that exempted the archdiocese, but said schools and health-care affiliates were still subject to the law, which takes effect Jan. 1.

Catholic Health Services of Long Island, the largest of the groups, oversees six hospitals, three nursing homes and a hospice service and has a health plan covering almost 25,000 people.

In the Oklahoma case, DeGiusti referred repeatedly to a lawsuit filed by Oklahoma City-based arts and crafts chain Hobby Lobby.

In that lawsuit, Hobby Lobby's owner, a Christian family, said the morning after pill mandate would violate their beliefs. However, had their insurance not given access to the drug, the company could have faced fines of up to $1.3 million daily.

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"Here, as in Hobby Lobby, the court finds that plaintiffs have made a threshold showing of a substantial burden, and, thus, a likelihood of success," DiGiusti's ruling states.
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