OKLAHOMA CITY – A federal judge appointed by George W. Bush has granted a temporary injunction to nearly 200 ministries seeking relief from the abortion pill mandate in Obamacare.
In October of this year, 187 Christian ministries that receive health insurance through GuideStone Financial Resources, an arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, were represented in class-action lawsuit filed against the Obama administration.
Reaching Souls International Inc., et al v. Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, et al challenged just four of the 20 contraceptives required to be covered under the Affordable Care Act. Drugs that were considered abortifacients, such as the morning-after and week-after pill, were the focus of the requested exemption.
The lead plaintiffs in the case were Reaching Souls International, an Oklahoma City ministry that trains pastors and works to assist African orphans, and Truett-McConnell College, a Baptist college in Cleveland, Georgia.
In granting a temporary injunction to the ministries while the case moves forward, U.S. District Court Judge Timothy DeGuisti asserted that the organizations had a right to challenge the requirement that the drugs be covered.
“[These] organizations face substantial financial penalties, and their refusal will cause a substantial financial loss to GuideStone if it excludes nonexempt, noncompliant organizations from the GuideStone plan,” he wrote.
DeGuisti also often pointed to this summer’s ruling granting the popular craft chain Hobby Lobby a temporary injunction.
“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,” he stated. “Defendants, their agents, officers, and employees are hereby enjoined and restrained from taking any enforcement action against Plaintiffs, or any employers who provide medical coverage to employees under the GuideStone Plan.”
Attorneys representing GuideStone applauded the ruling on Friday.
“This is an overwhelming victory for GuideStone and the nearly 200 plaintiffs in this class-action lawsuit,” Adèle Keim, Legal Counsel for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty stated in a news release following the decision. “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 … without laboring under the threat of massive fines.”
In the meantime, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide two cases next year surrounding the abortion pill requirement in Obamacare. As previously reported, the Court announced last month that it would hear two cases surrounding the Affordable Care Act: Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius.
“The government shouldn’t be able to punish Americans for exercising their fundamental freedoms,” said ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman, who represents Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation. “The administration has no business forcing citizens to choose between making a living and living free. We trust the Supreme Court will agree. A government that forces any citizen to participate in immoral acts—like the use of abortion drugs—under threat of crippling fines is a government everyone should fear.”