Trump Administration settles suit brought by defenders of religious liberties who fought Obama Mandate

By Dave Andrusko

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, DC

What a difference an election makes–a truism that is borne out almost monthly.

Pro-lifers recall the infamous Obama mandate issued by the Department of Health and Human Services under a provision of ObamaCare that required employers — even those with deeply held religious objections — to provide health coverage for drugs and procedures to which they have moral or religious objections.

The mandate immediately stirred a deluge of lawsuits including one group of more than 70 organizations represented by the law firm Jones Day.

The National Catholic Register reported today that the Department of Justice has reached a settlement “that plaintiffs would not be forced to provide health insurance coverage for ‘morally unacceptable’ products and procedures.”

In an Oct. 16 letter to priests of the archdiocese of Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl wrote, “This settlement brings to a conclusion our litigation challenging the Health and Human Services’ mandate obliging our institutions to provide support for morally objectionable activities, as well as a level of assurance as we move into the future

According to the Register’s Adelaide Mena

The Archdiocese of Washington was one of more than 300 plaintiffs who had challenged the mandate, arguing “that the practice of our faith was inextricably tied to the ministries that put that faith into action,” and that, as such, they should not be forced to violate their faith to continue their ministries, Wuerl recalled.

The Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and the Treasury “have also decided to provide partial coverage of the plaintiffs’ attorney fees and costs of the lawsuits,” according to the Register.

The settlement comes on the heels of the announcement by HHS of interim final rule changes to the Affordable Care Act and HHS coverage mandate that would protect moral and religious rights of conscience.

“Rights of conscience are extremely important to the right-to-life movement to protect medical professionals, religious institutions and employers from being forced to participate in abortion,” NRLC President Carol Tobias said last week. “We commend President Trump for keeping his campaign promises by supporting these rights of conscience. These rule changes will help promote a policy that protects prolife rights of conscience with regard to abortion.”

Under President Barack Obama’s administration, pro-abortion forces not only put increasing pressure on health care providers to violate their moral convictions with regard to abortion, but also backed efforts to force employers, including religious institutions and organizations that object to abortion, to cover abortion in their insurance plans. “No one should be forced to participate in abortion against their religious or moral convictions, “ Tobias said.

Cardinal Wuerl said, “While the Trump administration’s executive order on religious liberty and new guidelines and regulations are extremely helpful,” the settlement of the lawsuit “adds a leavening of certainty moving forward.”

Thomas Aquinas College was another plaintiff against the HHS mandate and also celebrated the additional protection the settlement brings. The Register reported

“While we welcomed the broadening of the exemption from the HHS mandate last week by the Trump administration, we have under our agreement today something even better: a permanent exemption from an onerous federal directive — and any similar future directive — that would require us to compromise our fundamental beliefs,” said Thomas Aquinas College President Michael McLean in an Oct. 16 statement.

“This is an extraordinary outcome for Thomas Aquinas College and for the cause of religious freedom.”