HHS finally protects Baptist universities Interim rule leaves contraceptive mandate in place, final resolution in court still needed
Melinda Skea 202-349-7224 firstname.lastname@example.org
WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new HHS mandate rule announced this morning will at least temporarily protect East Texas Baptist University and Houston Baptist University from providing items such as the week-after pill in their healthcare plan against their religious beliefs. Under the interim rule, the federal contraceptive mandate will remain in place for most employers but will now include an exemption for religious groups, including religious universities.
The rule aligns with the Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling last year protecting the universities in Zubik v. Burwell that the government cannot fine the religious groups for following their faith. The contraceptive mandate issue went to the Supreme Court five times, and each time the Supreme Court ruled in favor of protecting religious groups.
“We are thankful that HHS has seen the light and issued this new rule,” said ETBU President Dr. Blair Blackburn. “Our goal is to provide excellent Christ-centered education while remaining true to our Baptist beliefs. This case is at the core about protecting the constitutionality of our institution’s religious liberty to follow the tenets of our faith rooted in God’s truths.”
“We are glad the government has finally listened to the Supreme Court,” said HBU President Dr. Robert Sloan. “Our mission has always been driven by our faith, and all we have ever wanted was to live out that faith in every aspect of what we do.”
The interim final rule takes effect immediately, but can be revised by HHS before being issued as final. The rule strikes a balance between the government’s interests in contraceptive access and religious liberty by retaining the Obama Administration’s overall contraceptive mandate but adding a targeted religious exemption.
With an interim rule now in place, the ongoing court battles between religious groups and the federal government may be resolved soon. The interim rule acknowledges that the earlier mandate violated the universities’ religious liberty and that there are many other ways to obtain contraceptives.
“This is a victory for common sense at HHS. Now we need the lawyers at the Department of Justice to follow through too,” said Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel with Becket.
Today’s interim rule also affects other Becket clients, including the Little Sisters of the Poor, Christian Brothers Services, Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust, Reaching Souls International, Truett-McConnell College, GuideStone Financial Services of the Southern Baptist Convention, Colorado Christian University, Wheaton College, Ave Maria University, Belmont Abbey College, and Eternal Word Television Network.
For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Melinda Skea at email@example.com or 202-349-7224. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.
Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions and has a 100% win-rate before the United States Supreme Court. For over 20 years, it has successfully defended clients of all faiths, including Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians (read more here).