By Bob Unruh
President Donald Trump
President Donald Trump’s administration Friday refuted his predecessor’s insistence that religious organizations pay for contraceptives for their employees in violation of their faith, with a new proposed rule that creates an exemption for them.
The rule is the result of multiple challenges to the Obamacare demand that employers provide contraceptives to their employees which were brought by religious organizations ranging from Christian colleges to the most prominent of the cases, involving the Little Sisters of the Poor.
That fight has been the focus of many court hearings around the nation, and already has been in the U.S. Supreme Court five times. The last time, in 2016, the justices told the government it had to work out a solution because the government wasn’t allowed to unnecessarily burden religious faith.
The new rule issued Friday by the Trump administration admits that’s what Obama was doing, and establishes a pathway to a permanent exemption for faith groups.
Mark Rienzi is a lawyer for Becket, which argued on behalf of the Little Sisters, reacted.
In a telephone conference call he explained the ruling doesn’t close the court cases, and the various plaintiffs still will need to obtain permanent injunctive relief. But he said it removes virtually all of the arguments the government could use to try to prevent that relief.
“This appears to be a common sense, balanced rule and a great step forward for religious liberty,” he said. “Given what the government is admitting we assume the government lawyers won’t stand in the way of parties getting that relief.”
Rienzi explained this is actually about the ninth or 10th version of the rule regarding the issue the Obama administration used for an “unnecessary and divisive culture war.”
“You don’t need nuns to give out contraceptives,” he said, noting that until Obamacare’s rules were implemented, about 2011 or so, “nobody would have thought the right way to get contraceptives to people would have been to get nuns involved.”
That specific group, whose members dedicate their lives to living with and caring for the poorest of the elderly, was faced with fines of $75 million annually for following their Christian faith, and not paying for workers’ contraceptives, including abortifacients.
Even Obama’s lawyers in 2016 admitted there were many other ways to distribute those drugs if the government decided that was a priority.
The new rule keeps the contraceptive mandate for employers generally, but creates an exemption for religious organizations, or organizations that submit they are based on a faith foundation.
“What they did they added a real and true religious exemption so that the religious plaintiffs like Little Sisters of the Poor who in the past were forced to go to court to get protection have that protection,” Rienzi said.
The 163-page document was released by the government on Friday, and was attracting comments from both sides.
“All Americans should have the freedom to peacefully live and work consistent with their faith without fear of government punishment. The guidance that the Trump administration issued today helps protect that First Amendment freedom. As the memo states, ‘Americans do not give up their freedom of religion by participating in the marketplace, partaking of the public square, or interacting with government,’ and ‘free exercise of religion includes the right to act or abstain from action in accordance with one’s religious beliefs,’” said Alliance Defending Freedom chief Michael Farris.
“This guidance will help prevent families like the Vander Boons in Michigan who were threatened with the effective closure of their family-run business for simply expressing a religious point of view on marriage that differed from that of the federal government. And it is another step toward fulfilling President Trump’s promise to protect a host of Christian colleges, the Little Sisters of the Poor, and others from having to choose between violating their consciences and paying crippling fines to the IRS. The guidance is on firm legal and constitutional ground.
“As it notes, the U.S. Supreme Court made clear in its recent 7-2 decision in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer, singling out religious Americans for unequal treatment by the government ‘is odious to our Constitution…, and cannot stand.’ As CEO of the largest religious freedom legal organization in the world, I commend the president for taking another step to honor his campaign promise to make religious liberty his ‘first priority’ by directing the Department of Justice to issue this guidance, which simply directs the federal government to adhere to its legal and constitutional obligation to respect existing religious freedom protections.”
On the other side was the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which described the plan as “religious liberty run amok.”
“Under the new rules, which take effect immediately, any employer, including publicly traded companies and even universities, can claim a religious objection to providing birth control to employees,” the group said. “Religious liberty does not mean the freedom to force your dogma upon unwilling employees who themselves do not share these scruples.”
More to come …
Source:: World Net Daily FaithShare this: