SIOUX CITY, Iowa — An Iowa-based federal judge has granted an injunction to two Christian colleges who are seeking an exemption from the abortion pill mandate in Obamacare.
U.S. District Court Judge Mark Bennett, nominated to the bench by then-President Bill Clinton, issued the restraining order on Wednesday, allowing Dordt College in Iowa and Cornerstone University in Michigan a reprieve while their case moves forward in court.
“I find that granting Plaintiffs preliminary injunctive relief is appropriate,” he wrote. “First, Plaintiffs may suffer irreparable harm without an injunction in that they would be forced to comply with the Mandate to the detriment of their religious exercise. Even if I were to later grant Plaintiffs relief on their underlying claims, that would not remedy the harm caused by forcing the Plaintiffs to do something they deem religiously objectionable.”
The two colleges had been represented in court by the Christian legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which argued that the mandate violates the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, as well as the First and Fifth Amendments to the United States Constitution.
“With full knowledge that many religious organizations hold the same or similar beliefs, the Defendants issued regulations that…trample on the freedom of the schools and millions of other American organizations and individuals to abide by their religious convictions and comply with moral imperatives they believe are decreed by God Himself,” the lawsuit declared.
“Christian colleges should remain free to operate according to their defining beliefs,” added ADF Senior Counsel Gregory S. Baylor in a press release surrounding the injunction. “Under this mandate, religious employers have no real choice: they must either comply and abandon their religious freedom, or resist and be taxed for their faith.”
“If the government can force Christian colleges to act contrary to their deeply-held religious convictions, then the government can do just about anything,” he said. “The court was right to block enforcement of this unconstitutional mandate.”
The temporary restraining order comes at a time when the U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether religious-owned businesses may be granted an exemption by the government.
As previously reported, the Obama administration had filed an appeal to the Supreme Court in September in an effort to force the popular craft chain Hobby Lobby to comply with the abortion pill mandate in the Affordable Care Act. It asked the court to overturn a preliminary injunction that was granted to the company this past July.
Hobby Lobby offers birth control coverage to its employees but refuses to provide coverage for the morning-after and week-after pill, which it believes are abortifacients.
Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation, the plaintiff in the second case before the court, filed suit in December 2012 against the mandate, stating that it has never provided insurance coverage for medications that induce abortions, and doesn’t plan on doing so. It explained that terminating a life after conception violates its sincerely-held Mennonite beliefs, stating that it “is an intrinsic evil and a sin against God.”
The justices of the Supreme Court are expected to issue their ruling in June, which could have a significant impact on the rights of religious business owners to practice their faith in the workplace.