The Nine Lawsuits for Religious Freedom: A Brief Rundown of the Arguments

There are now nine lawsuits, including one brought by Priests for Life, which have been filed in federal district courts around the country challenging the Obama administration’s HHS mandate that requires employers to provide coverage for activities that many of them believe people should not do.

There is value to having multiple lawsuits, because, having been introduced in different judicial jurisdictions around the country, some may be victorious and others not, hence setting up a federal conflict that the Supreme Court is more likely to address.

There are similarities and differences in the legal arguments of the nine lawsuits.

First Amendment – Religious Liberty

The first and most obvious objection to the mandate is that it infringes on the free exercise of religion which the Constitution guarantees to every American.  The mandate forces health insurers, employers, and employees to violate their own religious faiths by providing or purchasing items and services that their faiths strictly prohibit.  Moreover, it penalizes the practice of religion by imposing hefty government fines on employers who stop providing employee health insurance rather than deny their beliefs.  This is exactly the type of government behavior that the First Amendment was designed to prevent.

Religious Freedom Restoration Act

A second argument is that the mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).  This 1993 law stops the federal government from restricting religious belief unless it can show a “compelling government interest” for doing so.  Providing subsidized abortifacients, birth control, and sterilization hardly seems to be a “compelling government interest” to interfere in religion.

First Amendment – Free Speech

Another common cause of action in the nine lawsuits is that the Obamacare mandate violates the free speech clause of the First Amendment.  Not only does the mandate force employers and employees to pay for objectionable items and procedures, but they also have to fund education and counseling for those same things.  In other words, people of faith would be forced to endorse with their involuntary financial contributions speech that contradicts their beliefs.

Administrative Procedure Act

The lawsuits by Priests for Life and others also allege that the Obama administration’s actions in putting forth the mandate for abortifacient/contraceptive coverage did not follow proper government procedures.

Overburdening State Medicaid Programs

The lawsuit brought by seven states, Bruning v. Sebelius, adds that state Medicaid programs will be overrun with new enrollees because of the mandate.  The states argue that religiously affiliated employers will either stop offering health insurance or, because they cannot afford the government fines for not offering employee health insurance, shut down completely.  The result of either action will be more people without health insurance, which under Obamacare, will mean more people moving to Medicaid coverage.  The increased financial strain on state budgets will be enormous.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan has pointed out that the courts are likely the best defense against the HHS mandate.  May God give success to the efforts of Priests for Life, other religiously affiliated employers, religious individuals, states, and even a private commercial business who have all brought suits to stop this mandate.

For more information on the mandate and the lawsuits, see priestsforlife.org/hhsmandate.

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