By Dave Andrusko
U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal today ruled in favor of two Texas Baptist institutions–East Texas Baptist University and Houston Baptist University–which opposed the Obama mandate that compels employers to provide health coverage for drugs and procedures to which they have moral or religious objections.
In its 46-page opinion, the federal court judge specifically rejected the government’s argument that it evaluate the Universities’ beliefs: “The religious organization plaintiffs have shown a sincerely held religious belief that the court cannot second-guess,” Judge Rosenthal wrote.
Religious plaintiffs have now won injunctions in 9 out of 12 such cases involving non-profit entities challenging the mandate, according to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberties.
“The government doesn’t have the right to decide what religious beliefs are legitimate and which ones aren’t,” said Eric Rassbach, Deputy General Counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, and lead attorney for East Texas Baptist and Houston Baptist Universities. “In its careful opinion, the Court recognized that the government was trying to move across that forbidden line, and said “No further!”
The decision comes two weeks after the Obama administration suffered another defeat. (See “Federal Judge issues permanent injunction in Archdiocese challenge to Obama Mandate”)
In that lawsuit U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan issued a permanent injunction barring the Obama administration from enforcing the mandate against four not-for-profit affiliates of the Catholic Archdiocese of New York: Catholic Health Care System, Catholic Health Services of Long Island, Cardinal Spellman High School and Monsignor Farrell High School. They collectively challenged the mandate as an infringement of religious freedom.
In his 41-page decision, Judge Cogan wrote that the groups “have demonstrated that the mandate, despite the accommodation, compels them to perform acts that are contrary to their religion.” He added, “And there can be no doubt that the coercive pressure here is substantial.”
According to the ACLU, “88 cases have been filed challenging the rule as an infringement on religious liberty,” the New York Times reported. “Seventy-five of these cases are pending: 29 cases brought by nonprofit organizations, 43 cases brought by for-profit companies and three cases brought by both nonprofit and for-profit plaintiffs.”
Two mandate cases involving for-profit plaintiffs—Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood–are set to be argued in March before the Supreme Court. (See “Supreme Court agrees to hear to two lawsuits against Obama Mandate”)