WASHINGTON — An Illinois-based Bible publisher has secured temporary relief from the federal contraception mandate after the Obama administration asked an appellate court to dismiss its challenge to a preliminary injunction.
Matthew Bowman, senior legal counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, which is defending the publisher, told Catholic News Agency that the move indicates “that the government knows it is taking an extremist view against religious freedom, and it is afraid to defend that in court.”
As a result of the court order, the Bible publisher will remain protected by a temporary injunction and will therefore be able to conduct its business free from the demands of the federal contraception mandate while its lawsuit against the mandate makes its way through the court.
Alliance Defending Freedom describes its client, Tyndale House Publishers, as “the world’s largest privately held Christian publisher of books, Bibles and digital media,” which directs more than 90% of its profits “to religious nonprofit causes worldwide.”
The company is contesting a controversial federal mandate by the Department of Health and Human Services, which requires employers to offer health insurance covering contraceptives, sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates the employer’s deeply held religious beliefs.
While the mandate includes a narrow exemption for some religious organizations and an “accommodation” for certain nonprofit religious employers, it does not offer any protection for the consciences of for-profit ventures by persons of faith, such as Tyndale.
The Bible publisher, run by Christians, does not object to contraceptives but has serious moral objections to paying or providing for any drugs that may end the life of a new human embryo, thereby causing an early abortion.
The company is one of nearly 200 plaintiffs across the country that have filed lawsuits challenging the mandate on the grounds of religious freedom.
If Tyndale were to fail to comply with the regulation, it could face huge penalties.
The May 3 order from the D.C. Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals means that a decision six months ago granting the publisher a preliminary injunction will stand while the court case, Tyndale House Publishers v. Sebelius, continues. The company will be protected from complying with the mandate in violation of its religious principles until the lawsuit is settled.
The administration’s decision to drop the appeal is the first victory for a preliminary injunction against the mandate on the appellate level.
Bowman stated that, altogether, at all levels of the legal system, the Obama administration has lost 19 cases challenging injunctions in court and has won six.
He told CNA that it seems “fairly obvious” that the administration decided to drop the case “because they’re afraid that their anti-religious argument will be shown to be completely absurd because their position is that not even a Bible publisher can exercise religion.”
“The government does not want to have to defend that position in court, and they’re going to try to delay or hide from that position in court,” he said in an explanation of why the Obama administration may have dropped the appeal.
Bowman also contended that the administration’s decision to end the appeal “undermines the government’s interest in imposing the mandate” universally and demonstrates “that the mandate is not really about women’s health; it’s about politics.”