WASHINGTON, D.C. – In the wake of Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case, the high court and two federal appeals courts have granted temporary injunctions to seven non-profit organizations.
Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), Catholic Diocese of Cheyenne (Wyoming), Catholic Charities of Wyoming, St. Joseph’s Children’s Home, St. Anthony Tri-Parish Catholic School, and Wyoming Catholic College were granted temporary waivers by the Tenth and Eleventh Circuit Courts, just hours after Monday’s Supreme Court decision. Later that night, the Supreme Court itself granted an additional waiver to Illinois-based Wheaton College while the school waits on its own appeal.
“The death knell is sounding for the HHS Mandate.”
Lawyers with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, who represent many of the more than 300 plaintiffs currently suing the Obama administration over the mandate, said the action, while swift, was long overdue.
“The death knell is sounding for the HHS Mandate,” said Lori Windham, Senior Counsel at the Becket Fund and counsel for EWTN. “The ruling in Hobby Lobby and then these … rulings in quick succession show that the HHS Mandate is on its last legs when it comes to religious non-profits. The sad part is that it has taken almost three years of litigation to get to a result the Administration should have supported in the first place because it is the right thing to do. Government shouldn’t be in the business of forcing nuns to violate their religious convictions.”
EWTN Chairman and CEO Michael P. Warsaw said, “We are thankful that the Eleventh Circuit protected our right to religious freedom while we pursue our case in court. We want to continue to practice the same Catholic faith that we preach to the world every day.”
Monday’s Supreme Court decision was the result of a lawsuit by the Christian-owned craft store chain Hobby Lobby, whose owners objected to the Obama administration’s controversial HHS contraceptive mandate, which required all employers with more than 50 workers to offer full, co-pay-free coverage for contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortion-causing drugs.
Because Hobby Lobby’s owners believe that life begins at conception, they sued for a religious exemption to the mandate, asking that the government allow them to cover only products or procedures that have no chance of ending a newly-created life.
In a narrow 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court agreed, ruling that Hobby Lobby’s owners could not be compelled to provide abortifacient drugs.
Because Monday’s decision applies only to closely held for-profit companies – defined as private corporations having at least 50 percent of their stock held by a group of five or fewer people – non-profit charities, schools, and other organizations who object to the mandate will have to wait for the Supreme Court to rule on a case that applies to them.
The most likely candidate is Little Sisters of the Poor v. Sebelius, a lawsuit brought by a group of Roman Catholic nuns who object to the “accommodation” offered by the Obama administration. The “accommodation,” but which has been panned by many critics as an accounting gimmick, claims to allow certain religiously-affiliated non-profits to pass the costs of contraceptive coverage on to insurers by submitting a form certifying their opposition on religious grounds.
The Little Sisters, along with dozens of other not-for-profits, argue that the act of signing the form counts as participating in the provision of the offending coverage, and that requiring them to do so is a violation of their First Amendment rights to religion and free speech.