In Missouri, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has decided that President Obama’s HHS Mandate violates the rights of religious employers by requiring them to provide emergency contraception. Reuters reports that the 8th Circuit upheld two lower court decisions that barred the government from making religious groups pay for contraceptives. Although many pro-life advocates aren’t opposed to all contraception, most are to abortifacient drugs. The lawsuit was brought forward by Dordt College in Iowa and Cornerstone University in Michigan.
In its opinion in Dordt College v. Burwell, the 8th Circuit explained that forcing religious groups to provide abortifacient drugs violated their religious freedoms. The court said, “…We conclude that by coercing Dordt and Cornerstone to participate in the contraceptive mandate and accommodation process under threat of severe monetary penalty, the government has substantially burdened Dordt and Cornerstone’s exercise of religion” and “that, even assuming that the government’s interests in safeguarding public health and ensuring equal access to health care for women are compelling, the contraceptive mandate and accommodation process likely are not the least restrictive means of furthering those interests.”
The circuit judge who wrote the decision for the three-judge panel, Roger Wollman, said the court must defer to the employers’ “sincere religious belief that their participation in the accommodation process makes them morally and spiritually complicit in providing abortifacient coverage.”
Allaince Defending Freedom (ADF) Senior Counsel Gregory S. Baylor said the following about the case: “In America, faith-based colleges and universities should be free to operate according to the faith they espouse and live out on a daily basis. If the administration can punish Christian organizations simply because they want to abide by their faith, there is no limit to what other freedoms it can take away. The 8th circuit was right to uphold the district court’s order and block enforcement of this unconstitutional mandate.”
ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot added, “The government shouldn’t punish people of faith for making decisions in accordance with their faith. The same applies to these Christian schools, which simply want to abide by the very beliefs they espouse and teach. The Supreme Court upheld that time-honored principle in its Conestoga/Hobby Lobbydecision last year, and the 8th Circuit has rightly done the same.”
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