Ave Maria University, in Florida, has won in a court battle against the Federal government, and is no longer obligated to pay for abortion-causing drugs or birth control of its employees.
The Health and Human Services mandate, part of the Affordable Healthcare Act (aka: ObamaCare), had originally sought to compel all employers, including churches, to pay for abortifacients, sterilization, and contraception to employees regardless of religious or moral objections. However, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida handed down a decision in Ave Maria School of Law v. Sebelius that stops the enforcement pill mandate against the Catholic law school.
The lawsuit, Ave Maria School of Law v. Sebelius, filed with the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, argued that the mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as well as the First and Fifth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
Matt Bowman, Senior Legal Counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, said,
“Faith-based educational institutions should be free to live and operate according to the faith they teach and espouse. The court was right to uphold the religious freedom of institutions that value the sanctity of life. If the government can force Ave Maria School of Law to violate its faith in order to exist, then the government can do the same or worse to others.”
Had this court not handed down an injunction, Ave Maria would have faced millions of dollars of fines to go into effect this weekend. Thus far, this is the first order against the government’s “augmented rule” that it issued last August.
The Senior Counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, Eric Baxter, added
“After dozens of court rulings, the government still doesn’t seem to get that it can’t force faith institutions to violate their beliefs. Fortunately, the courts continue to see through the government’s attempts to disguise the Mandate’s religious coercion. We congratulate Ave Maria for its courage, even under the threat of crippling fines.”
As of now, around 90% of the courts who have looked at this matter—including the Supreme Court—have gone on the side of religious ministries.
The Ave Maria School of Law Dean Eugene Miller insisted, “Our school believes in living out our religious convictions. The First Amendment protects Americans from mandates that require us to act against our deeply held religious convictions. But the mandate leaves us with no real choice: we must either comply and abandon our religious freedom and conscience, or resist and be fined for our faith.”
“The question is whether the government can pick and choose what faith is, who the faithful are, and when and where they can exercise that faith,” added Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot. “The cost of religious freedom for Americans and organizations across the country that face this mandate is severe. The potential for massive fines and lawsuits could shut down religious educational institutions as well as private employers with similar religious convictions.”
This bodes well for the Catholic network EWTN, and the Little Sisters of the Poor, both of which have also been under pressure from the HHS mandate.