Enforcement of the abortion pill mandate has been suspended at four Christian Universities after an Oklahoma District Court found the law unconstitutional and in violation of the Religious Freedom Act.
According to Monday’s court ruling:
“The government has put these institutions to a choice of either acquiescing in a government-enforced betrayal of sincerely held religious beliefs, or incurring potentially ruinous financial penalties, or electing other equally ruinous courses of action. That is the burden, and it is substantial.”
The plaintiffs in the suit (Southern Nazarene University, Oklahoma Wesleyan University, Oklahoma Baptist University, and Mid-America Christian University) stipulated 68 facts for the court to consider. These ranged from their belief “that Plan B, ella, and IUDs can and sometimes do act abortifaciently by preventing implantation after fertilization,” to the fact that facilitating or enabling such drugs would compromise their sincere religious convictions:
“The Universities must choose among four options: (a) provide the coverage to which they object; (b) violate the regulations and incur penalties of $100 per day for each affected individual; (c) discontinue all health plan coverage for employees and/or students; or (d) self-certify that they qualify for the and provide that self-certification to their third party administrators or issuers.”
The Religious Freedom Act states that governments may not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion unless it “is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.”
Not only did the court acknowledge the mandate as a “substantial burden,” it also noted a compelling government interest was absent and there was no evidence to show the mandate was in its “least restrictive” form. In light of these facts, the court stated the mandate violated the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, her agents, officers and employees have been restrained “from any effort to apply or enforce” the mandate or “any penalties fines or assessments related thereto, until the further order of the court.”
This victory sets yet another court precedent that can be used in the long battle ahead to protect religious establishments from the overbearing Obamacare mandate.