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Christian universities and seminary win against HHS mandate in federal court

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A Houston federal court ruled in favor of several Christian schools, according to a December 27 news update by the law firm The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. The court gave preliminary injunction against the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive requirement (offering abortion-inducing contraceptives) in favor of East Texas Baptist University, Houston Baptist University and Westminster Theological Seminary.

Eric Rassbach, Deputy General Counsel at the Becket Fund, described the victory:

"The government doesn’t have the right to decide what religious beliefs are legitimate and which ones aren’t...In its careful opinion, the Court recognized that the government was trying to move across that forbidden line, and said 'No further!' "

Specifically, the court argued in their 46-page opinion: “The religious organization plaintiffs have shown a sincerely held religious belief that the court cannot second-guess.”

The government argued that "the accommodation does not require the plaintiffs to do much and does not require more than they were already doing in different contexts, and is therefore not burdensome at all."

But the court contended that the burden of proof was upon the government. The ruling specified that the government had to show that there was a specific compelling interest for this contraceptive mandate and that the HHS mandate was the least restrictive means to achieve this. Neither threshold was met by the government.

In particular, the court easily identified several other ways that the government could have offered emergency contraceptives without forcing such institutions to act against their consciences.

The plaintiffs' religious beliefs were deemed sincere and clearly part of their respective Protestant traditions. The court found the government mandate as burdensome upon the religious rights. It found the mandate "violates RFRA [Religious Freedom Restoration Act] as a matter of law."

Locally, Colorado Christian University has recently renewed its lawsuit against the government abortion-drug mandate. There are currently 46 for-profit Christian-run businesses with lawsuits against the government mandate.

By gracious providence, this is the ninth court ruling out of twelve that has favored the religious non-profit institutions against the Affordable Care Act contraceptive requirement. To date, there are 89 lawsuits against the unconstitutionality of the HHS mandate.

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