Doctors seek legal protection from Biden Administration’s Transgender Mandate

WASHINGTON – Doctors are fighting for their medical conscience rights against a Biden Administration Health and Human Services’ (HHS) mandate that requires doctors and hospitals to perform controversial gender transition procedures in violation of their conscience and medical judgment, or else face severe financial penalties. This Thursday, a Catholic healthcare network and a group of almost 19,000 healthcare professionals will be asking the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to protect their freedom to care for all patients in accordance with their conscience and best medical judgement. In Franciscan Alliance v. Becerra, these doctors and hospitals sued the federal government in 2016 over the HHS rule known as the Transgender Mandate, which would force doctors to perform harmful gender transition procedures on children. A federal court permanently blocked the mandate, finding it unlawful, and Becket is now asking the Fifth Circuit to uphold that decision.  

Despite the Biden Administration proposing a new, revised version of the mandate this week, it remains unenforceable because of this litigation, and a decision against the mandate by the Fifth Circuit would block the mandate permanently.  

What:
Oral argument at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Franciscan Alliance v. Becerra  

Who:
Joseph Davis, counsel at Becket
Sister Petra Nielson, vice president of mission integration for Franciscan Health Michigan City

When:
Thursday, August 4, 2022, at 11 a.m. ET 

Where:
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit 
600 Camp Street
New Orleans, LA 70130
Listen live at https://5thcircuit.streamguys1.com/east.
(Link will be live once oral argument begins) 

A Becket attorney will be available for comment following the hearing. 

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Ryan Colby atmedia@becketlaw.orgor 202-349-7224.Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. 

Nuns and Catholic hospitals ask court to stop harmful transgender mandate

WASHINGTON – Several Catholic hospitals, a Catholic university, and the Religious Sisters of Mercy—a group of Catholic nuns who run health clinics to care for the elderly and the poor—were in court today challenging a federal mandate that forces doctors to ignore science and their medical judgment and perform controversial gender-transition procedures, including on children, even if those procedures could cause permanent harm.

The mandate would force religious healthcare providers—on pain of financial and criminal liability—to act against their sincerely held religious beliefs. The government has not required its own military doctors to perform these procedures. It also has not required coverage of gender transition procedures in Medicare or Medicaid—even in adults—because HHS’s medical experts who oversee those programs do not believe research demonstrates that gender reassignment surgery improves health outcomes. Some studies, in fact, indicate that these procedures are harmful. But under the HHS rule developed by political appointees, doctors or hospitals citing the same evidence and using their best medical judgment could face multimillion-dollar penalties and lose their jobs.

“Both federal courts to consider this controversial mandate have struck it down as bad for patients, bad for doctors, and bad for religious liberty,” said Luke Goodrich, VP & senior counsel at Becket. “It is past time for this Administration to stop forcing doctors to go against conscience and sound medical judgment and to start respecting their Hippocratic Oath to ‘do no harm.’”

The religious doctors and hospitals in the case gladly serve all patients regardless of their sex or gender identity and provide top-notch care to transgender patients for everything from cancer to the common cold. However, research shows that certain gender-transition procedures can be deeply harmful to patients and that up to 94 percent of children with gender dysphoria (77 to 94 percent in one set of studies and 73 to 88 percent in another) will grow out of their dysphoria naturally and live healthy lives without the need for surgery or lifelong hormone regimens.

“The federal government has no business forcing doctors to perform controversial procedures that could be deeply harmful to patients,” said Goodrich. “We look forward to a commonsense ruling that is good for patients, good for doctors, and good for religious liberty.”

Becket is defending the Religious Sisters of Mercy, the University of Mary, Sacred Heart Mercy Health Care Center, and SMP Health System. In August 2016, Becket, joined by eight state governments, filed a parallel lawsuit in Texas on behalf of Franciscan Alliance, a religious hospital network sponsored by the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, and the Christian Medical & Dental Associations, defending them from the same government mandate.

More information can be found at www.transgendermandate.org.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Ryan Colby at media@becketlaw.org or 202-349-7219. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

Federal court shuts down harmful Transgender Mandate

WASHINGTON – A federal court in Texas just blocked a harmful Biden administration policy known as the Transgender Mandate, which would force religious doctors and hospitals to perform gender transition procedures on their patients—including children—even when the procedures can be medically harmful. The case of Franciscan Alliance v. Becerra was brought by a religious hospital, an association of over 20,000 healthcare professionals, and nine states, and it is now the second court ruling blocking the administration from enforcing the policy.

“Today’s ruling is a victory for compassion, conscience, and common sense,” said Luke Goodrich, vice president and senior counsel at Becket. “No doctor should be forced to perform controversial, medically unsupported procedures that are contrary to their conscience and could be deeply harmful to their patients.” 

Five years and two presidents ago, the federal government issued a mandate that applied to nearly every doctor in the country — interpreting the Affordable Care Act to require them to perform gender transition procedures on any patient, including children, even if the doctor believed the procedure could harm the patient. Doctors who refused to violate their medical judgment would face severe consequences, including financial penalties and private lawsuits. Immediately, religious organizations and states sued, challenging the legality of the mandate in multiple courts. In 2016, a federal court in North Dakota put the rule on hold, and in 2019 another federal court in Texas struck it down. Recently, the Biden administration announced that it would revive the same policy. Today’s ruling stops that attempt.  

“These religious doctors and hospitals provide top-notch medical care to all patients for everything from cancer to the common cold,” said Goodrich. “Everyone benefits when doctors are able to follow their professional medical judgment and their Hippocratic Oath to ‘Do No Harm.’”  

The Biden administration will have 60 days to decide whether to appeal the court’s ruling. 

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Ryan Colby atmedia@becketlaw.orgor 202-349-7219.Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. 

New York tries forcing nuns to pay for abortions

WASHINGTON – Multiple orders of Catholic and Anglican nuns, alongside several Catholic dioceses, Christian churches, and faith-based social justice ministries asked the Supreme Court late last week to hear their case against New York’s abortion mandate. In Diocese of Albany v. Lacewell, the diverse coalition of religious organizations sued New York after its Department of Financial Services required that all employers cover abortions in their health insurance plans. After losing in the state court, the religious organizations have now petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to protect their right to operate their ministries without being forced to provide abortions.

“Our faith tells us that every life is precious from the moment of conception to the final breath. That’s why we spend our lives praying and serving to lift others’ burdens,” said Mother Miriam, of the Sisterhood of Saint Mary, the oldest religious order founded in America in the Anglican tradition. “New York has told us that if we want to hold our beliefs about the sanctity of life, we have to stop serving non-Anglicans. We cannot compromise on our religious beliefs, or in our service to people of all faiths or no faith at all. That’s why we need relief from the Supreme Court.”

When the New York State Department of Financial Services initially proposed the abortion mandate, it promised to respect the First Amendment by exempting employers with religious objections. But after facing pressure from abortion activists, New York narrowed the exemption to protect only religious entities whose purpose is to inculcate religious values and who primarily serve and hire coreligionists. This narrow exemption thus doesn’t apply to most religious ministries that serve people regardless of their faith. For example, the exemption doesn’t extend to the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm and their Teresian Nursing Home because they serve the elderly and dying regardless of religious affiliation. Nor does it extend to the First Bible Baptist Church, which operates social justice ministries for underserved community members.

“When New York instituted its abortion mandate, the Little Sisters of the Poor were already two Supreme Court victories into their battle against the contraceptive mandate. Now they’ve won for a third time, sending the clear message that the government can’t make nuns do its dirty work,” said Lori Windham, senior counsel at Becket. “New York’s failure to learn from the Little Sisters’ saga that you can’t make nuns pay for abortions is beyond reason. The Court needs to step in and teach New York that lesson.”

The story of nuns being ordered to pay for drugs and procedures that violate their religious beliefs has already played out at the federal level. In 2011, the United States Department of Health and Human Services ordered employers to cover controversial contraceptives and abortifacients in their health care plan or face crippling fines. Immediately, a lawsuit was brought by the Little Sisters of the Poor—an order of Catholic nuns who dedicate their lives to serving the elderly poor. Three times the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Little Sisters of the Poor, saying that if the government wanted to find a way to provide contraceptives and abortifacients, it couldn’t force the nuns to help.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Ryan Colby at media@becketlaw.org or 202-349-7219. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

Diocese of Albany v. Emami

Pushing the envelope beyond the contraceptive mandate

In 2011, the United States Department of Health and Human Services ordered employers to cover controversial contraceptives and abortifacients in their health care plans or face crippling fines. Immediately challenges were mounted by religious universities, Christian businesses and, most famously, by the Little Sisters of the Poor—an order of Catholic nuns who dedicate their lives to serving the elderly poor. Three times the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Little Sisters of the Poor, saying that if the government wanted to provide contraceptives and abortifacients, it could not force the nuns to help.

But in 2017, when the Little Sisters of the Poor were already two Supreme Court victories into their decade-long legal battle over the contraceptive mandate, the State of New York went a step further and required employers statewide to cover actual abortions in their health plans.

New York initially planned to respect conscience rights by exempting employers with religious objections. But facing pressure from abortion activists, New York narrowed the exemption to protect only religious entities whose purpose is to inculcate religious values and who primarily employ and serve coreligionists. This discriminatory rule punishes the many religious groups and ministries that provide critical community services and employ or serve people regardless of their faith.

Standing up for the right to stand aside

A coalition of religious groups from a variety of denominations—including Roman Catholic dioceses, an order of goat-herding Anglican nuns, Baptist and Lutheran churches, and Catholic ministries—sued New York, arguing that the law forced them to violate their deeply held religious beliefs about the sanctity of life.

Among the religious groups challenging New York’s abortion mandate are a group of the Carmelite Sisters who run the Teresian Nursing Home for the elderly and dying; the First Bible Baptist Church, which serves the community through its youth ministry, and a deaf ministry; the Sisterhood of St. Mary, an Anglican/Episcopal order of religious sisters who live a contemplative, monastic life; and subdivisions of Catholic Charities, which provide adoption and maternity services.

Each group is challenging New York’s abortion mandate because it believes that life begins at the moment of conception, and that to intentionally end the life of an unborn child is a grave moral sin. However, unless the Supreme Court protects them, these orders, ministries, and churches will either have to violate their deepest religious convictions and provide abortions, or eliminate their employees’ health insurance altogether, which would subject them to crippling fines totaling millions of dollars per year.

Seeking relief from the High Court

On April 23, 2021, represented by Becket and Jones Day, the coalition of religious organizations asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear its case. The consequences of the Court’s decision will be felt acutely—should the Court deny the religious groups’ petition, they will be forced to fund abortions, which they consider a grave moral evil.

Just like the Court found that the government must find a way to provide contraception that doesn’t involve the Little Sisters of the Poor, so too must the Court step in and protect these religious organizations from having to violate their deepest moral convictions by participating in abortions.

Importance to Religious Liberty:

  • Religious communitiesReligious communities have the right to organize and operate according to their beliefs without the government discriminating among sincere religious.
  • Individual freedomReligious individuals and organizations are free to follow their faith in all aspects of their lives, including in the workplace and not just in houses of worship.

Doctors fight mandate to perform gender transition procedures on children

WASHINGTON – Doctors and hospitals were in federal court today to protect both their conscience rights and child patients from unscientific meddling by government bureaucrats. In Franciscan Alliance v. Cochran, a federal initiative known as the Transgender Mandate threatens to drive religious doctors out of practice if they do not perform gender-transition procedures, even if they, exercising their best medical judgment, believe the procedures to be harmful. The mandate first appeared in a regulation issued by the Department of Health and Human Services in 2016, which applied to virtually every doctor in the country, and included no medical-judgment or religious exemptions. Doctors who refused to violate their conscience would have faced severe consequences, including losing their job.

“Medical decisions related to gender transition have serious implications, and it is clearly in patients’ best interests to ensure that doctors are able to serve in keeping with their consciences and their medical judgment,” said Luke Goodrich, VP & senior counsel at Becket. “Government bureaucrats in Washington who want to force doctors to perform controversial, experimental procedures are putting children in harm’s way.”

An association of over 19,000 healthcare professionals, nine states, and several religious organizations filed two lawsuits against the mandate, arguing that it was inconsistent with federal law and required doctors to violate the Hippocratic Oath, which requires doctors to act in the best interest of their patients. In December 2016, two different federal courts ruled that the policy was an unlawful overreach by a federal agency and a violation of conscience rights of medical professionals. Today, doctors and hospitals were in court to seek lasting relief and to protect their informed medical judgment.

“The harmful Transgender Mandate undermines the federal government’s own medical experts’ advice on treating children with gender dysphoria,” said Goodrich. “Yet, politicians and activists are trying to force private doctors, on pain of severe punishment, to perform controversial procedures that can be deeply harmful to patients.”

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Ryan Colby at media@becketlaw.org or 202-349-7219. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

Court to decide whether feds can force doctors to give controversial drugs and treatments to children

WASHINGTON – With almost every doctor in America on the hook to perform gender transition procedures on children diagnosed with gender dysphoria under the federal government’s reading of the Affordable Care Act, Becket will be in court Wednesday to protect both medical conscience rights and child patients from unscientific meddling by Washington bureaucrats. In Franciscan Alliance v. Cochran, a healthcare network with a Catholic mission to follow the work of St. Francis of Assisi and an association of over 19,000 Christian healthcare providers sued the federal government after a 2016 mandate, known as the Transgender Mandate, required doctors to perform gender transition procedures on any patient, including a child, even if the doctor believed the procedure could harm the patient. Becket obtained a decision that the Transgender Mandate was unlawful in 2019 but is now back in court seeking lasting relief on behalf of doctors and hospitals whose medical judgment and religious beliefs alike forbid them from participating in transition procedures they believe to be harmful.

What:
Oral argument at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Franciscan Alliance v. Cochran

Who:
Joe Davis, counsel at Becket

When:
Wednesday, March 3, 2021, at 2:30 p.m. EST

Where:
Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals
Listen live at https://5thcircuit.streamguys1.com/east.
(Link will be live once oral argument begins)

A Becket attorney will be available for comment immediately following the hearing.

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Ryan Colby atmedia@becketlaw.orgor 202-349-7224.Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

Court blocks mandate forcing doctors to perform controversial gender transition procedures

WASHINGTON – A federal court in North Dakota just blocked a requirement known as the Transgender Mandate that would force medical professionals and religious hospitals to perform gender transition procedures on their patients—including children—even when the procedures are potentially harmful. In Religious Sisters of Mercy v. Azar, an order of Catholic nuns, a Catholic university, and Catholic healthcare organizations sued the federal government challenging a provision of the Affordable Care Act that would have forced doctors to perform gender transition procedures even if doing so would violate their religious beliefs and medical judgment. Becket represented the plaintiffs, arguing that sensitive medical decisions should be kept between patients and their doctors without government interference, and that no one should be required by law to disregard their conscience or their professional medical judgment.

“Now more than ever, Americans are grateful for the sacrifices of our medical professionals who serve on the front lines and use their training and expertise to serve the vulnerable,” said Luke Goodrich, senior counsel at Becket. “The court’s decision recognizes our medical heroes’ right to practice medicine in line with their conscience and without politically motivated interference from government bureaucrats.”

In 2016, the federal government issued a mandate, applicable to nearly every doctor in the country, interpreting the Affordable Care Act to require them to perform gender transition procedures on any patient, including children, even if the doctor believed the procedure could harm the patient. Doctors who refused to violate their medical judgment would have faced severe consequences, including financial penalties and private lawsuits. Immediately, religious organizations and states sued, challenging the legality of the mandate in multiple courts. In 2016, a federal court in North Dakota put the rule on hold, and in 2019 another federal court in Texas struck it down. In June 2020, HHS passed a new rule aimed at walking back the requirement, but other courts have blocked that new rule. Today’s ruling is the second ruling from a federal court blocking the Transgender Mandate. The ruling protects patients, aligns with current medical research, and ensures doctors aren’t forced to violate their religious beliefs and medical judgment.

“These religious doctors and hospitals provide top-notch medical care to all patients for everything from cancer to the common cold,” said Goodrich. “All they’re asking is that they be allowed to continue serving their patients as they’ve done for decades, without being forced to perform controversial, medically unsupported procedures that are against their religious beliefs and potentially harmful to their patients. The Constitution and federal law require no less.”

Supreme Court to Little Sisters: you are free to serve elderly poor without violating faith

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Little Sisters of the Poor 7-2 today, allowing them to continue serving the elderly poor and dying without threat of millions of dollars in fines. In Little Sisters of the Poor v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Little Sisters made their third trip to the Supreme Court, dragged by several states that tried to force Catholic nuns to provide coverage for contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs. Today’s ruling grants them protection to freely serve the elderly poor without violating their conscience.

Writing for the Court, Justice Thomas held that “For over 150 years, the Little Sisters have engaged in faithful service and sacrifice, motivated by a religious calling to surrender all for the sake of their brother. . . . But for the past seven years, they—like many other religious objectors who have participated in the litigation and rulemakings leading up to today’s decision— have had to fight for the ability to continue in their noble work without violating their sincerely held religious beliefs.” The Court held that the federal government was right to protect those beliefs.

“We are overjoyed that, once again, the Supreme Court has protected our right to serve the elderly without violating our faith,” said Mother Loraine Marie Maguire of the Little Sisters of the Poor. “Our life’s work and great joy is serving the elderly poor and we are so grateful that the contraceptive mandate will no longer steal our attention from our calling.”

The Little Sisters are an order of Roman Catholic religious sisters who dedicate their lives to serving the elderly poor. In 2011, the federal government issued the HHS contraceptive mandate, which would have required the Little Sisters to provide abortion-inducing drugs in their health care plans or pay millions of dollars in fines. In 2016, the Supreme Court unanimously removed lower court rulings against the Little Sisters and protected them from the IRS fines. HHS then announced a new rule protecting religious non-profits, including the Little Sisters. Yet several states, including Pennsylvania and California, immediately sued the federal government to take that protection away, forcing the Little Sisters back to court.

“America deserves better than petty governments harassing nuns. The Court did the right thing by protecting the Little Sisters from an unnecessary mandate that would have gutted their ministry,” said Mark Rienzi, president of Becket. “Governments don’t need nuns to distribute contraceptives. But they do need religious groups to care for the elderly, heal the sick and feed the hungry. These governments all have real work they ought to be doing rather than dividing people with old and unnecessary culture wars.”

What:
Press Call to discuss Supreme Court’s opinions in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania, Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru and St. James Catholic School v. Biel

Who:
Mark Rienzi, president at Becket (Available for interviews)

Eric Rassbach, vice president and senior counsel at Becket (Available for interviews)

When:
Today at 11:30 a.m. EDT/8:30 a.m. PDT

Press Call Information:
301-715-8592  | Pin #: 914-1188-8332 | or join https://zoom.us/j/91411888332

 Email questions in advance to media@becketlaw.org

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Ryan Colby at media@becketlaw.org or 202-349-7219. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

Broad support to protect doctors, nurses from discriminatory firing

WASHINGTON – A diverse group of states, Members of Congress, minority groups, medical affiliate organizations, and legal experts recently filed half-a-dozen briefs supporting the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s (HHS) Conscience Rule, which provides federal conscience protections for medical professionals. In New York v. HHS, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is defending Dr. Regina Frost and the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA) from attempts by states to discriminate against doctors and nurses who refuse to violate their consciences and medical judgment by performing procedures such as abortions or physician-assisted suicide.  This case is now in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Highlights from the friend-of-the-court filings in New York v. HHS:

  • A congressional brief filed by dozens of Members of Congress explained why the new rule’s provisions flowed directly from unchallenged—and bipartisan—statutory protections for medical conscience that have been on the books for decades.
  • Former Senator Coats and former Representative Weldon (the named sponsors of two key statutory conscience protections for healthcare providers) filed their own brief in support, explaining why conscience protections are important for health care providers and how the government’s new regulation supports key bipartisan statutory protections that have long been on the books.
  • The Jewish Coalition for Religious Liberty and the Coalition for Jewish Values also highlighted the disproportionate impact that New York’s lawsuit would have on medical professionals of minority faiths.
  • The Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence explained why this new rule helps the government better enforce existing federal conscience protections.
  • A coalition of medical professional organizations—including the American College Of Pediatricians, the Catholic Medical Association, and the National Catholic Bioethics Center—filed a brief highlighting ongoing threats to medical professionals of faith and explaining why this rule will help ensure medical providers cannot be coerced by employers to either violate their conscience or lose their job.

“Healthcare is one area where protecting conscience is particularly vital,” said Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, in a brief on behalf of sixteen states. “That is why Congress has routinely enacted laws to ensure that these professionals can provide care without violating their beliefs.”

Polling from last year shows that religious healthcare professionals are committed to serving all patients, but face increasing pressures to engage in procedures such as abortions that violate their faith, which could force over ninety percent of religious doctors out of the medical field.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a Conscience Rule last year to better enforce bipartisan laws that, for decades, have promised to allow religious doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals to serve patients without facing employment discrimination directed against their consciences. The Rule simply clarifies and enforces existing federal statutes designed to ensure religious health professionals won’t be forced out of the practice of medicine by entities that voluntarily choose to accept federal tax money. But, led by the State of New York, several states and abortion providers are suing to keep the federal funds while preventing the government from enforcing the conscience protections that they agreed to when they accepted the funds.

“It is encouraging to see this broad coalition stand up in support of conscience rights,” said Dr. Regina Frost. “I hope the Court will recognize that the Rule simply enforces common-sense, bipartisan protections that protect both medical professionals from unjust discrimination and patients from losing their doctors.”

Dr. Frost is an OB-GYN and one of nearly 19,000 medical professionals in CMDA serving the sick and vulnerable in the United States and abroad. CMDA members serve the homeless, prisoners living with HIV, and victims of opioid addiction, sex trafficking, and gang violence. Overseas, CMDA members serve in war zones, refugee clinics, and remote areas without quality healthcare. New York’s lawsuit needlessly threatens the health and well-being of at-risk, underserved populations across the globe.

Dr. Frost and CMDA are also represented by Allyson Ho and Daniel Nowicki of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Ryan Colby at media@becketlaw.org or 202-349-7219. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, or Spanish.

Little Sisters ask Supreme Court to protect their ministry to the elderly poor once and for all

WASHINGTON – The Little Sisters of the Poor made a historic virtual appearance today at the Supreme Court and asked for protection from a coalition of states which seeks to take away their hard-won religious exemption from the HHS contraceptive mandate. In Little Sisters of the Poor v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, after the Little Sisters were twice protected by the Supreme Court and finally granted a religious exemption in 2018, several states dragged the Catholic nuns back to court to defend their ministry. Today, Paul Clement, advocating for the Little Sisters by telephone, asked the Justices to protect the nuns once more and end the Little Sisters’ seven-year legal battle once and for all.

This morning, it was made clear that Pennsylvania takes an even stingier view of the government’s ability to make religious exemptions than the Obama administration did, denying that the Affordable Care Act even gives the government authority to exempt churches.

“We are hopeful that the Court will protect us as it did in 2016 and eager to be rid of this legal trouble which has hung over our ministry like a storm cloud for nearly a decade,” said Mother Loraine Marie Maguire of the Little Sisters of the Poor. “In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the lives of our residents face a real and imminent threat, we are more eager than ever to be able to care for our residents without being harassed by governments.”

The Little Sisters are an order of Roman Catholic religious sisters who dedicate their lives to serving the elderly poor. In 2011, the federal government issued the HHS contraceptive mandate, which required the Little Sisters to provide abortion-inducing drugs in their health care plans or pay millions of dollars in fines. In 2016, the Supreme Court unanimously removed lower court rulings against the Little Sisters and protected them from the IRS fines. HHS then announced a new ruleprotecting religious non-profits, including the Little Sisters. Yet several states, including Pennsylvania and California, immediately sued the federal government to take that protection away, forcing the Little Sisters back to court. After a loss in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, the Sisters turned to the High Court to finally put an end to their long legal journey.

“The Court has ruled in the Little Sister’s favor twice before, recognizing what was obvious from the very beginning—that the federal government doesn’t need nuns to help it distribute contraceptives and that forcing them to participate is plainly unconstitutional,” said Mark Rienzi, president of Becket. “We hope that the Supreme Court ends this litigation once and for all.”

Press call information following argument today:

NEW TIME: Today at 12:30 p.m. EDT
646-876-9923 | Pin #: 930-944-5568 | or joinhttp://zoom.us/my/comms.line.external
Email questions in advance to media@becketlaw.org

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket  attorney,  contact Ryan Colby at  media@becketlaw.org  or 202-349-7219.Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. 

Little Sisters of the Poor return to Supreme Court in historic telephonic argument

Update: Becket’s press call has been delayed due to prolonged oral argument. It will take place at 12:30 p.m. ET. 

WASHINGTON – The Little Sisters of the Poor will once again be at the Supreme Court (virtually) Wednesday to defend their ministry of serving the elderly poor. In Little Sisters of the Poor v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Sisters are asking the Supreme Court to put a stop to Pennsylvania’s attempt to take away their hard-earned religious exemption from the HHS contraceptive mandate, and end their seven-year legal battle once and for all. For the first time in Supreme Court history, the Court has decided to hear a handful of cases telephonically in the interest of safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now more than ever, as the Little Sisters work tirelessly to preserve the physical and spiritual health of the elderly poor in their care, it is important for Pennsylvania and other state governments to leave the Little Sisters alone and let them carry out their ministry in peace.

Information for oral argument and press call is below. Further, from 8:45-10:00 a.m. EDT, Wednesday, May 6, the morning of oral argument, please join a virtual rally to show support for the Little Sisters and all religious ministries that rely on religious exemptions. Information on rally speakers will be made available.

What:
SCOTUS Oral Argument in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

Who:
Paul Clement, Kirkland & Ellis LLP (Arguing)
Mark Rienzi, president of Becket (Available for interviews)
Diana Verm, senior counsel at Becket (Available for interviews)

When:
Wednesday, May 6, 2020 at 10 a.m. EDT

Where:
The audio of the arguments will be accessible live via one of the C-SPAN TV networks, online via C-SPAN.org, and on the free C-SPAN Radio app.

Becket will host a press call following arguments at 12:30 p.m. EDT.

Call-in for Press Call:
646-876-9923 | Pin #: 930-944-5568 | or join http://zoom.us/my/comms.line.external
Email questions in advance to media@becketlaw.org

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Ryan Colby at media@becketlaw.org or 202-349-7219. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

Supreme Court will hear Little Sisters’ plea to keep caring for the elderly poor

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court will once again weigh in on the case of the Little Sisters of the Poor in their legal battle against the HHS contraceptive mandate. The Supreme Court has twice protected the Catholic nuns, and an HHS rule issued in 2018 protects religious non-profits, but several states have dragged the Little Sisters of the Poor back to court. In Little Sisters of the Poor v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Little Sisters are defending their hard-won religious exemption from a lawsuit by the Pennsylvania Attorney General and a recent Third Circuit ruling against them threatening their ministry of serving the elderly poor.

The HHS contraceptive mandate required the Little Sisters to provide services such as the week-after pill in their health care plans or pay millions of dollars in fines. In 2016, the Supreme Court unanimously overturned lower court rulings against the Little Sisters, granting them an exemption from the mandate, and in 2018, HHS announced a new rule protecting religious non-profits, including the Little Sisters. Yet several states, including Pennsylvania and California, immediately sued the federal government to take that protection away, forcing the Little Sisters back to court. After a loss in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, the Sisters now turn to the High Court to finally put an end to their long legal journey.

“It is disappointing to think that as we enter a new decade we must still defend our ministry in court,” said Mother Loraine Marie Maguire of the Little Sisters of the Poor. “We are grateful the Supreme Court has decided to weigh in, and hopeful that the Justices will reinforce their previous decision and allow us to focus on our lifelong work of serving the elderly poor once and for all.”

In 2016, the government admitted before the Supreme Court that it has ways to get contraceptives to women without forcing the Little Sisters of the Poor to participate. California and Pennsylvania each have programs for providing contraceptives to women who want them, yet both states are suing to enforce the federal mandate on religious non-profits like the Little Sisters.

“Pennsylvania needs to give it a rest,” said Mark Rienzi, president of Becket. “Why is Pennsylvania still trying to fight tired and unnecessary culture wars that were settled years ago? There are plenty of ways to provide people with contraceptives without forcing Catholic nuns to participate. It’s too bad that the Supreme Court is being forced by Pennsylvania to deal with this issue again, but at least the Court can now bring this litigation to a permanent end.”

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Ryan Colby at media@becketlaw.org or 202-349-7219. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

Christian doctors continue the fight for conscience protections

WASHINGTON – Religious medical professionals in New York have announced that they appealed a district court’s decision to block vital conscience protections for doctors and nurses. In New York v. HHS, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is defending Dr. Regina Frost and the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA) from attempts by Planned Parenthood and New York officials to force religious doctors to perform life-ending procedures that violate their consciences. The Trump administration has until Jan. 6 to join the appeal from the district court’s decision, which struck down one of the administration’s signature regulations.

In May 2019, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a Conscience Rule to better enforce longstanding, bipartisan laws that, for decades, have promised to allow religious doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals to serve patients without being required to violate their consciences. Medical professionals of all faith backgrounds and with moral objections rely on these well established protections. The Rule holds HHS funding recipients to agreements that they made under existing federal statutes to accommodate religious health professionals. But several states and abortion provider and advocacy organizations—including the State of New York and Planned Parenthood, which have long accepted HHS funds—immediately sued to avoid enforcement of their existing agreements under the Rule and to push religious healthcare professionals like Dr. Frost out of the medical profession.

“My faith is at the heart of who I am. It is what drives me to put the needs of women and their children first every day, and to serve everyone in my care with dignity and respect,” said Dr. Regina Frost. “If the government forces me to violate my faith and my medical judgment to perform abortions, I’ll have no choice but to leave the profession.”

Dr. Frost is an OB-GYN and one of nearly 19,000 medical professionals in CMDA serving vulnerable populations in the United States and abroad. Across the country, CMDA members serve the homeless, prisoners living with HIV, and victims of opioid addiction, sex trafficking, and gang violence. Overseas, CMDA members serve in war zones, refugee clinics, and remote areas without quality healthcare. The lawsuit by Planned Parenthood and New York needlessly threatens the health and well-being of at-risk, underserved populations across the globe. New polling shows that healthcare professionals are committed to serving all patients but are facing increasing pressures to perform in certain procedures, which they believe end life and violate their faith—and these pressures could force 91 percent of religious doctors out of the medical field.

In Nov. 2019, a New York district court ruled against the Conscience Rule. Yesterday, Dr. Frost and CMDA appealed this ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The deadline for the Trump administration to appeal the district court’s decision is Jan. 6, 2020.

“Like an ideological Grinch stealing conscience rights, Planned Parenthood is robbing not only religious doctors and nurses but also the patients that they serve,” said Daniel Blomberg, senior counsel at Becket. “To hear Planned Parenthood tell it, one pro-life OB-GYN is one too many. That’s wrong and it’s bad for healthcare. In a big, diverse country like ours, we can ensure that everyone will receive the care they need while still respecting the consciences of religious doctors and nurses.”

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Ryan Colby at media@becketlaw.org or 202-349-7219. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, or Spanish.

Nuns return to the Supreme Court

WASHINGTON – The Little Sisters of the Poor asked the Supreme Court last night to protect them from the HHS contraceptive mandate again. Over the past three years the Supreme Court has twice protected the Catholic nuns, but the states have dragged them back to court. In Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Trump, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro threatened the Little Sisters’ ministry by challenging their religious exemption, forcing the Little Sisters to continue to defend themselves in court. After a loss in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, the order of Catholic nuns is asking the Supreme Court to end their six year-long legal battle and let them keep their focus on serving the elderly poor.

In May 2016, the Supreme Court unanimously overturned lower court rulings against the Little Sisters and granted them an exemption from the HHS contraceptive mandate, which required the nuns to provide services such as the week-after pill in their health care plans or pay millions of dollars in fines. In 2018, HHS announced a new rule protecting religious non-profits, including the Little Sisters, but several states, including Pennsylvania and California, immediately sued the federal government to take that protection away, forcing the Little Sisters back to court.

“It has been six long years since we began our legal battle against government mandates that threaten our ministry,” said Mother Loraine Marie Maguire of the Little Sisters of the Poor“We hope we have finally reached the end of this arduous process, that the Supreme Court will reaffirm their previous decision, and that we will soon be able to keep our focus on the elderly poor.”

In 2016, the government admitted, before the Supreme Court, that it has ways to get contraceptives to women without forcing the Little Sisters of the Poor to participate. In fact, California and Pennsylvania each have programs for providing contraceptives to women who want them. Yet these States sued to enforce the federal mandate on religious non-profits like the Little Sisters.

“This is a nonsensical political battle that has dragged on six years too long. These states have not been able to identify a single person who would lose contraceptive coverage under the new HHS rule, but they won’t rest until Catholic nuns are forced to pay for contraceptives,” said Mark Rienzi, president of Becket. “It is time for the Supreme Court to finally put this issue to rest.”

New York v. HHS

A doctor’s mission: hope and healing for everyone

Dr. Regina Frost has practiced medicine for 15 years, specializing in obstetrics and gynecology. She helps lead a network of female healthcare professionals called Women Physicians in Christ, a ministry of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA) that is committed to supporting women physicians and dentists by integrating their personal, spiritual, and professional lives 

CMDA is an organization of over 19,000 healthcare professionals, including Dr. Frost, who are committed to living out their faith in their practice of medicine. CMDA members serve everyone and seek to treat all of their patients like Christ would, providing all with compassionate care, healing, and hope. CMDA medical professionals take an oath to do no harm and would never deny routine or life-saving care to anyone. 

Their mission to heal takes CMDA doctors and nurses all over the globe. Within the U.S., CMDA members serve vulnerable populations including the homeless, prisoners living with HIV, and victims of opioid addiction, sex trafficking, and gang violence. Abroad, CMDA members serve in war zones, refugee clinics, and remote areas without quality healthcare. Several even contracted Ebola while providing treatment to patients during the deadly outbreak in Liberia. 

Religious healthcare professionals face an impossible choice  

Dr. Frost and other religious healthcare professionals are called to serve everyone with compassion. They only ask not to be forced to perform certain medical procedures that they believe would be inconsistent with their faith.  

In May 2019 the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a Conscience Rule, reinforcing an existing law which allows religious doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals to serve their patients without being forced to violate their conscience. Several states, including the State of New York, immediately sued to overturn that rule and are willing to drive religious healthcare professionals like Dr. Frost out of the medical field 

No doctor should have to choose between giving up their faith and abandoning a vital medical mission. Indeed, recent polling from CMDA and USCCB confirms the importance of these conscience protections, both for religious healthcare professionals seeking to care for those most in need and for the clients they serve. But New York’s lawsuit needlessly threatens the health, safety, and lives of at-risk, underserved populations who voluntarily seek care from CMDA members across the nation and around the world. 

Becket defends religious healthcare professionals and the people they serve 

On June 25, 2019, Becket intervened to defend Dr. Frost and the Christian Medical & Dental Associations from New York’s lawsuit, arguing that healthcare professionals should not be forced to perform medical procedures that would require them to violate their beliefs. The Conscience Rule reaffirms what the First Amendment and dozens of federal statutes already guarantee: religious Americans—including doctors—do not have to compromise their faith to serve those in need. 

On November 6, 2019, a federal court ruled against the Conscience Rule, threatening the ability of religious doctors to serve communities without being forced to perform procedures against their beliefs. CMDA, Dr. Frost, and HHS appealed to the Second Circuit, and filed their opening briefs on April 27, 2020.

Dr. Frost’s participation in the case is solely in her personal capacity and not on behalf of her employer. 

Importance to Religious Liberty: 

  • Individual FreedomReligious freedom protects the rights of individuals to live out their faith in all facets of their lives—including in their professions. This lawsuit threatens the ability of religious healthcare professionals to provide quality, compassionate healthcare, forcing them to choose between their conscience and their practice 

Today: Little Sisters of the Poor back in court

WASHINGTON – The Little Sisters of the Poor will be in court this morning to ask for protection from a lawsuit by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania threatening their religious ministry. On May 21, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit will hear arguments in Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Trump to decide if Attorney General Josh Shapiro can threaten the Sisters’ hard-won religious exemption from the HHS mandate, which was finalized last year following a five-year legal battle that went all the way to the Supreme Court. A new HHS rule protects religious non-profits, including the Little Sisters, from providing services such as the week-after pill in their health care plans. Yet in two separate lawsuits, Pennsylvania and California are suing the federal government to take those rights away, forcing the Little Sisters back to court to protect their vital ministry of caring for the elderly poor.

What:
Oral Argument in Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Trump

Who:
Becket President Mark Rienzi

When:
Today at 10:00 a.m. EST

Where:
James A. Byrne U.S. Courthouse
601 Market St. Philadelphia, PA 19106

Becket President Mark Rienzi will be available for comment immediately following the hearing. Join us for a statement live on Twitter @becketlaw.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Ryan Colby at media@becketlaw.org or 202-349-7219. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

Religious exemptions back on the chopping block in HHS cases

WASHINGTON D.C.–The Little Sisters of the Poor will now be forced to continue defending themselves from lawsuits by California and Pennsylvania that attempt to take away the nuns’ hard-won religious exemption from the HHS mandate. In State of California v. HHS and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Trump, the order of Catholic nuns asked two separate federal courts to protect their religious exemption, following a five-year legal battle that went all the way to the Supreme Court. But moments ago, the Pennsylvania court ruled that Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro can continue his challenge to the HHS religious exemption. This follows California’s ruling late yesterday, which allows Attorney General Xavier Becerra to continue his challenge to the HHS religious exemption, threatening the Little Sisters’ ministry of caring for the elderly poor.

The new HHS rule, which was supposed to go into effect today, was the federal government’s effort to comply with injunctions requiring it to protect the Little Sisters of the Poor and other religious non-profits from providing services such as the week-after pill in their employee health care plans. Last week in court, Becket defended the Little Sisters of the Poor from the California and Pennsylvania-led lawsuits, arguing that the government was simply obeying federal civil rights laws by providing the religious exemption.

“We never wanted this fight, and we regret that after a long legal battle it is still not over. We pray that we can once again devote our lives to our ministry of serving the elderly poor as we have for over 175 years without being forced to violate our faith,” said Mother Loraine Marie Maguire of the Little Sisters of the Poor. 

The Little Sisters spent five years battling the HHS mandate that would have forced them to violate their faith or pay millions in fines. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, where the government admitted that it has ways to get contraceptives to women without using the Little Sisters of the Poor. Following the 2016 ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court and an Executive Order, HHS issued a new rule that finally protects the Little Sisters and other religious non-profits. The government had long exempted big businesses and even its own health care plans, yet California never sued the Obama administration for creating the exemptions that reach tens of millions more women than the Little Sisters’ exemption.

“Government bureaucrats should not be allowed to threaten the rights of the Little Sisters of the Poor to serve according to their Catholic beliefs. Now the nuns are forced to keep fighting this unnecessary lawsuit to protect their ability to focus on caring for the poor,” said Mark Rienzi, president of Becket and lead attorney for the Little Sisters of the Poor. “We are confident these decisions will be overturned.”

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or 202-349-7224. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

In court today and tomorrow: Little Sisters of the Poor fight in Penn. and Calif.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Little Sisters of the Poor will be in Pennsylvania and California federal courts today and tomorrow defending themselves from lawsuits by state Attorneys General Josh Shapiro (PA) and Xavier Becerra (CA), which threaten their ministry of serving the elderly poor. In Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Trump and State of California v. HHS, the order of Catholic nuns is asking the court to protect their religious exemption to the HHS mandate, which was finalized in November, following a four-year legal battle that went all the way to the Supreme Court. The new rule protects religious non-profits, including the Little Sisters, from providing services such as the week-after pill in their health care plans. Yet California and Pennsylvania are suing to take those rights away, forcing the Little Sisters back to court. Becket is defending the Little Sisters of the Poor, arguing that the new rule is a sensible protection of their religious belief and is required by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The court will hear the cases Thursday and Friday and must decide whether the Little Sisters of the Poor can focus on their vital ministry of caring for the elderly poor.


What:

Oral Argument in Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Trump
Today at 9:00 a.m. EST
James A. Byrne U.S. Courthouse
601 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106

 

Oral Argument in State of California v. HHS
Friday, January 11, 2019 at 10:00 a.m. PST
Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building & United States Courthouse
1301 Clay Street
Oakland, CA 94612

 

Becket president Mark Rienzi will argue both cases. Join us for a statement live on Twitter immediately after each court hearing.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or 202-349-7224. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

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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).

World’s largest religious media network wins right to follow faith

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A court ruling yesterday ensures Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), the world’s largest religious media network, can freely follow the religious teachings that drive its mission. In Eternal Word Television Network v. Azar, the previous administration’s HHS mandate tried to force the Catholic network to provide services such as the week-after pill in its healthcare plan. Yesterday’s decision, which comes on the heels of a settlement with the federal government, ends EWTN’s seven-year legal battle.

In 2013, EWTN sued the federal government and challenged the HHS mandate in court. A federal appeals court ruled against the network in 2016, but that decision was tossed out after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that protected other religious non-profits, including the Little Sisters of the Poor. Yesterday’s decision follows a formal settlement agreement, a Presidential Executive Order, and a recently finalized HHS rule issued in November ensuring a religious exemption preventing non-profits like EWTN from having to violate their faith.

“It shouldn’t take years to prove the obvious: you can’t tell a religious media network to say one thing and do another” said Michael P. Warsaw, chairman and CEO of EWTN. “We are grateful that—finally—EWTN no longer has to worry about being forced to choose between massive fines and following our faith.”

EWTN was founded in 1981 by Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, also known as Mother Angelica, who was a cloistered nun and well-beloved TV personality worldwide. She started EWTN as a small television network in a garage on her monastery grounds with the purpose of sharing the Catholic faith with the public. Today, EWTN is now the largest religious media organization in the world, reaching into over 300 million television homes in 145 different countries.  The Network also includes global radio, digital media, print, publishing and news services.

“EWTN lives by its Catholic faith all day every day, expressing its beliefs worldwide in TV, radio, and print,” said Lori Windham, senior counsel at Becket, which represented EWTN. “We are glad that the government and the courts agree that it can continue doing that without being forced to violate its faith.”

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or 202-349-7224. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

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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).

Press call: New HHS rule and Little Sisters of the Poor

Call Audio Here

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new rule issued late yesterday by Health & Human Services (HHS) finalizes the interim religious exemption that the Little Sisters of the Poor received in October 2017. Becket will hold a press call at at 10 a.m. EST tomorrow to discuss this latest update and its effect on ongoing cases in California and Pennsylvania against the Little Sisters, an order of Catholic nuns who dedicate their lives to serving the elderly poor.

On October 6, 2017, HHS provided the Little Sisters and other religious non-profits an interim religious exemption from having to provide services such as the week-after pill in their employee healthcare plans against their religious beliefs. This new rule finalizes that exemption after HHS considered public comments. The new rule follows an Executive Order issued May 2017 and the 2016 unanimous Supreme Court decision protecting the Little Sisters in Zubik v. Burwell 

What:
Press call to discuss the HHS mandate rule and the Little Sisters of the Poor

Who:
Mark Rienzi, president of Becket

When:
November 8, 2018, at 10 a.m. EST

Press Call Information:
888-670-9385 | Pin #: 54523
Email media@becketlaw.org with questions

The following statement may be attributed to Mark Rienzi, president of Becket: “For the last four years the Little Sisters have said that the government has other ways to provide services like the week-after pill without involving nuns. Today, at long last, the federal government finalized the rule providing a religious exemption from the HHS Mandate to the Little Sisters and other religious non-profits. This long unnecessary culture war is now almost over–all that is left is for state governments to admit that there are many ways to deliver these services without nuns, and the Little Sisters can return to serving the elderly poor in peace.”

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or 202-349-7224. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

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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).

Little Sisters defend their Supreme Court Victory from Calif. AG

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Little Sisters of the Poor were in federal court today defending themselves from a new lawsuit by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who is attempting to strip the nuns of their religious exemption to the HHS mandate. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit heard oral arguments today in State of California v. Little Sisters of the Poor and will decide if the order of Catholic nuns can continue caring for the elderly poor without violating their Catholic faith.

Last October, as directed by the Supreme Court in Zubik v. Burwell, HHS issued a new regulation giving religious non-profits, including the Little Sisters of the Poor, legal protection from having to provide services such as the week-after pill in their healthcare plan in violation of their faith. Yet shortly after the regulation was passed, Becerra sued to take away the Little Sisters’ religious exemption, forcing the nuns back to court. Becket defended the Little Sisters in court today, arguing that the religious exemption is required by civil rights law.

“We pray that the court will protect our ability to continue serving the elderly poor as we have for over 175 years without being forced to violate our faith,” said Sister Theresa Gertrude of the Little Sisters of the Poor. (Watch her full statement here).

The Little Sisters spent four years battling the HHS mandate that would have forced them to violate their faith or pay millions in fines. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, where the government admitted that it has ways to get contraceptives to women without using the Little Sisters of the Poor. Following the 2016 ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court and a Presidential Executive Order, HHS issued a new rule that finally protects the Little Sisters and other religious non-profits. The government had long exempted big businesses—such as Exxon, Chevron and Pepsi—and even its own health care plans, yet California never sued the Obama administration for creating the exemptions that reach tens of millions more people than the Little Sisters’ exemption.

“Politicians have no right pushing around religious women like the Little Sisters of the Poor,” said Mark Rienzi, president of Becket and lead attorney for the Little Sisters of the Poor. “The Little Sisters already endured a lengthy legal battle that went all the way to the Supreme Court; they don’t need this unnecessary lawsuit to try to take them away from caring for the poor.”

Becket President Mark Rienzi argued on behalf of the Little Sisters. A ruling is expected sometime in 2019.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or 202-349-7224. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

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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).

Court to hear California’s attack on Little Sisters next week

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Little Sisters of the Poor will be in federal court next week defending their right to live according to their religious beliefs. In State of California v. Little Sisters of the Poor, the State of California is suing to end a 2017 regulation that gives religious nonprofits, including the order of Catholic nuns, legal protection from the HHS mandate. The HHS mandate, center of a seven-year legal battle that went all the way to the Supreme Court, requires employers to provide services such as the week-after pill in their health care plans. The new regulation is a result of the 2016 Supreme Court decision in Zubik v. Burwell, which told HHS to revise its rules. Yet shortly after the regulation was passed, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra sued to take away the Little Sisters’ religious exemption, forcing the nuns back to court. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit will hear arguments and decide whether the Little Sisters of the Poor can get back to their vital ministry of caring for the elderly poor.

What:
Oral Argument in State of California v. Little Sisters of the Poor

Who:
Mark Rienzi, president of Becket

When:
Friday, Oct. 19, 2018, at 8:30 a.m. PST

Where:
James R. Browning U.S. Courthouse
95 7th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

Becket attorney Diana Verm and Mother Theresa Gertrude of the Little Sisters of the Poor will give Twitter live statements immediately after the hearing.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or 202-349-7224. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

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Becket is a nonprofit, 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).

BREAKING: Little Sisters of the Poor get their day in Penn. court

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Little Sisters of the Poor have won the right to defend themselves against a new lawsuit by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro. The lawsuit, which would take away the nuns’ religious exemption from a Health and Human Services (HHS) rule, would mean they once again face the dilemma of providing services like the week-after pill in their health plan against their faith or pay millions in government fines. The Little Sisters asked a lower court to let them defend themselves against the lawsuit, but in December the court kept them out of the case after objections from AG Shapiro. Today, an appeals court overruled that decision and said the Little Sisters should be allowed to defend their rights.   

“Women like the Little Sisters of the Poor do not need bureaucrats trying to push them around. The appeals court got it right—the Little Sisters should be allowed their day in court to argue for their rights. It is shameful that Josh Shapiro tried to deprive the Sisters of their right to defend themselves,” said Lori Windham, senior counsel at Becket, which represents the Little Sisters of the Poor.   

In early October, HHS issued a new rule that protects religious non-profits like the Little Sisters of the Poor from providing services like the week-after pill in their healthcare plans in violation of their faith. This meant their four-year legal ordeal was close to an end. But shortly after, the state of Pennsylvania sued to take away the Little Sisters’ religious exemption. Represented by Becket, the Little Sisters went back to court to ensure that they can continue their vital ministry of caring for the elderly poor without violating their faith. 

“We pray that soon this trying time will be over; that the court will rule as the Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that the government doesn’t need us to provide these services to women. As Little Sisters of the Poor, all we want is to follow our calling of serving the elderly poor,” said Mother Loraine Marie Maguire of the Little Sisters of the Poor (watch her full statement from the court here.) 

The Little Sisters have long argued that it was unfair to exempt big businesses—such as Exxon, Chevron and Pepsi—and even government-run health care plans, but threaten the Little Sisters with millions of dollars in fines. Pennsylvania’s lawsuit seeks to impose those fines on religious charities, even though the state never challenged the Obama administration’s exemptions for big businesses.   

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Melinda Skea atmedia@becketlaw.orgor 202-349-7224.Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. 

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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, includingBuddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians(read more here). 

Wheaton College wins five-year battle against HHS mandate

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Wheaton College, one of the top Christian liberal arts colleges in the country, has won the right to carry out its religious mission without fear of government fines. Late yesterday a judge ruled in Wheaton v. Azar that the government would violate federal civil rights laws if it forced Wheaton to provide services like the week-after pill in its healthcare plans against its religious beliefs. The judge’s order permanently forbids the government from imposing that mandate on Wheaton, ending the College’s five-year legal battle, which included receiving protection against the mandate from the Supreme Court in 2015.    

This is the first district court order offering permanent protection from the HHS mandate after the Supreme Court’s 2016 decision in Zubik v. Burwell, which said that the government could not fine religious groups for following their faith and said it could find other ways to provide services to the women who want them. Yesterday’s decision permanently protects Wheaton from any current or future version of the mandate.   

The government is not above the law—that’s why we have civil rights laws. Wheaton should never have had to go to court to protect its rights in the first place. This order ensures we won’t have to come back,” said Diana VermWheaton alumna and legal counsel at Becket, which represented the College.    

Wheaton College was founded in 1860 by prominent abolitionist Jonathan Blanchard. Its religious mission “For Christ and His Kingdom” guides everything it does. That is why, in 2012, after receiving no response from HHS to its concerns, Wheaton filed a lawsuit to defend its right to operate according to its religious principles.  

The contraceptive mandate went to theSupremeCourtfivetimes, and each time the Supreme Court ruled in favor of protecting religious groups. Yesterday’s order follows a new HHS rule that admits the federal government violated the law and provides temporary protection to religious objectors. However, the new rule was halted in late December by judges in California and Pennsylvania. The California and Pennsylvania orders have been appealed. Meanwhile, the court’s order will permanently protect Wheaton from any current or future version of the mandate. 

“We are grateful to God that the court recognized Wheaton’s religious identity and protected our ability to affirm the sanctity of human life,” said Philip RykenPresident of Wheaton College“The government should never have tried to force us to provide drugs and services against our faith, and we are pleased by the resolution of our case.” 

Wheaton College is represented by Becket and Christian Poland of Bryan Cave LLP.     

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Melinda Skea atmedia@becketlaw.orgor 202-349-7224.Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. 

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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, includingBuddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians(read more here). 

Penn. AG attacks nuns’ rights in court while keeping them outside

WASHINGTON, D.C. –The Little Sisters of the Poor and their hard-fought rights will be on trial Thursday, December 14, but the Sisters will be outside the courthouse because of Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s attempt to silence them. Shapiro is suing to take away the Sisters’ religious exemption from a Health and Human Services rule. In early October, HHS issued a new rule that protects the Little Sisters of the Poor and other religious non-profits from providing services in their health care plan that violate their faith like the week-after pill. The Little Sisters’ four-year legal ordeal was close to an end, but now the state of Pennsylvania is suing HHS to take away the Little Sisters’ religious exemption. Worse yet, Pennsylvania successfully won a court order keeping the Little Sisters from joining the case to defend their rights. A similar hearing took place on Tuesday in Oakland, California where nearly 50 people rallied outside the courthouse in support of the Little Sisters. Represented by Becket, the Little Sisters will speak up outside the courthouse to ensure that they can continue their vital ministry of caring for the elderly poor, as they have for over 175 years, without violating their faith (learn more about the Little Sisters here).

What:
Hearing in Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Hargan

Statements by:
Mother Loraine Marie Maguire, of the Little Sisters of the Poor
Lori Windham, senior counsel at Becket

When:
Thursday, December 14, 2017 at 11:00 a.m. EST

Where:
James A. Byrne United States Courthouse
601 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA  19106

Becket attorneys will be available for comment immediately following the hearing.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or 202-349-7219. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

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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).

Calif. AG fights to silence Little Sisters of the Poor

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Little Sisters of the Poor were back in court today to defend themselves against a lawsuit by Attorney General of California Xavier Becerra, who is suing to take away the Little Sisters’ religious exemption from a Health and Human Services rule. Becerra has argued that the Little Sisters shouldn’t be able to defend their rights in this lawsuit. Before the hearing, nearly fifty people attended a rally outside the Oakland court in support of the Little Sisters. 

In early October, HHS issued a new rule that protects religious non-profits like the Little Sisters of the Poor from providing services that violate their faith like the week-after pill. This meant their four-year legal ordeal was close to an end, yet shortly after, the state of California sued to take away the Little Sisters’ religious exemption. Represented by Becket, the Little Sisters went back to court to ensure that they can continue their vital ministry of caring for the elderly poor without violating their faith. 

“We pray that soon this trying time will be over; that the court will rule as the Supreme Court ruled last year saying the government doesn’t need us to provide these services to women. As Little Sisters of the Poor, all we want is to follow our calling of serving the elderly poor,” said Mother Maria Christine of the Little Sisters of the Poor (watch her full statement here.)  

The Little Sisters spent the last four years battling the HHS mandate that would have forced them to either violate their faith by providing services like the week-after pill in their healthcare plan, or pay millions in fines. Following an earlier ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court, in October HHS admitted that it had been wrong to fight the Little Sisters and issued a new rule that finally exempts them and other religious non-profits. The government had long exempted big businesses—such as Exxon, Chevron and Pepsi—and even its own health care plans. California never sued the Obama administration for creating these exemptions that reach tens of millions more people than the Little Sisters’ exemption.   

“Women like the Little Sisters of the Poor do not need more bureaucrats pushing them around. They should be allowed their day in court to argue for their rights, and they should be allowed to practice their faith in peace,” said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at Becket and lead attorney for the Little Sisters of the Poor.  

Oral argument took place in federal district court in Oakland, California to decide if the protection for the Little Sisters will stand, and whether the Little Sisters will be allowed to defend it in this court. A decision is likely by the end of the year.  

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Melinda Skea atmedia@becketlaw.orgor 202-349-7224.Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. 

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 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, includingBuddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians(read more here). 

Calif. Attorney General drags Little Sisters of the Poor back to court

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Little Sisters of the Poor will go to court today, to defend themselves against a lawsuit by Attorney General of California Xavier Becerra, who is suing to take away the Sisters’ religious exemption from a Health and Human Services rule. In early October, HHS issued a new rule that protects religious non-profits like the Little Sisters of the Poor from providing services like the week-after pill in their healthcare plans in violation of their faith. The Little Sisters’ four-year legal ordeal was close to an end. Now the state of California is suing HHS to take away the Little Sisters’ religious exemption. Represented by Becket, the Little Sisters will be back in court to ensure that they can continue their vital ministry of caring for the elderly poor without violating their faith.  

What:
Hearing in State of California v. Hargan  

Who:
The Little Sisters of the Poor
Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel at Becket  

When:
Today at 2 p.m. PST  

Where:
Ronald V. Dellums United States Courthouse
1301 Clay Street Oakland, CA 94612


Becket attorneys will be available for comment immediately following the hearing.  

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Melinda Skea atmedia@becketlaw.orgor 202-349-7224.Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.  

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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, includingBuddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians(read more here). 

Little Sisters of the Poor head back to court

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Little Sisters of the Poor are heading back to court to defend themselves against lawsuits by the states of California and Pennsylvania to take away the Little Sisters’ religious exemption from the new Health and Human Services rule. In early October, HHS issued a new rule that protects religious non-profits like the Little Sisters of the Poor, Catholic nuns who dedicate their lives to caring for the elderly poor, from providing services like the week-after pill in their healthcare plans in violation of their faith. The new rule should mean that their lawsuit against the federal government will soon end.  

However, shortly after the new mandate was issued, the states of California and Pennsylvania sued to take away the religious exemption the Little Sisters just won. The Little Sisters of the Poor, represented by Becket, are asking the court to ensure that they can continue their vital ministry of caring for the elderly poor without violating their faith. Becket filed to intervene on the Sister’s behalf in California and Pennsylvania today.

The following statement may be attributed to Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at Becket and lead attorney for the Little Sisters of the Poor: “Sadly Josh Shapiro and Xavier Becerra think attacking nuns is a way to score political points. These men may think their campaign donors want them to sue nuns, but our guess is most taxpayers disagree. No one needs nuns in order to get contraceptives, and no one needs these guys reigniting the last administration’s divisive and unnecessary culture war.”  

What:
Press call to discuss Little Sisters’ intervention in Pennsylvania v. Trump and California v. Hargan.

Who:
Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at Becket 

When:
Tuesday, November 21 at 11:30 a.m. EST 

Press Call Information:
888-670-9385 | Pin #: 54523
Email media@becketlaw.org with questions 

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Melinda Skea atmedia@becketlaw.orgor 202-349-7224.Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. 

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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, includingBuddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians(read more here). 

Little Sisters of the Poor v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

WEBSITE for Little Sisters Cases

Despite Supreme Court victory and new rule, Little Sisters are still in court

On October 6, 2017, Health & Human Services issued a new rule with an updated, broad religious exemption that finally protected religious non-profits like the Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of Catholic nuns who care for the elderly poor. In its new rule, the government admitted that it broke the law by trying to force the Little Sisters and others to provide services like the week-after-pill in their health plans that violated their religious beliefs. That result should mean that the end is near for the Little Sisters’ lawsuit.

However, following the new mandate announcement, the state of Pennsylvania sued the federal government to take away the Little Sisters’ religious exemption. Pennsylvania admits that it already has and already uses many government programs to provide contraceptives to women who need them.  Pennsylvania never challenged the Obama Administration for creating much larger exceptions for secular corporations—exceptions that covered tens of millions more people than the religious exemption.  Pennsylvania does not even have its own contraceptive mandate at all.  And Pennsylvania’s lawsuit does not identify a single real person who previously had contraceptive coverage but will lose it because of the new Rule.

Despite all this, Pennsylvania is asking a judge to order that the Little Sisters must comply with the federal mandate (not a state mandate) or pay tens of millions of dollars in fines.

Becket challenges Pennsylvania’s attempt to take away Little Sisters’ religious rights

In November 2017, Becket intervened on behalf of the Little Sisters of the Poor in California and Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania court refused to let the Little Sisters intervene in the case, or even argue in court. A week later, the Pennsylvania court temporarily blocked the new rule that gave the Little Sisters a religious exemption. Becket immediately appealed both rulings. Oral argument was held on March 23, 2018 to decide whether the Sisters will be allowed to intervene in the case, and on April 24, 2018, the Little Sisters’ motion for intervention was granted. On January 14, 2019, the court ruled against them – a decision which the Little Sisters immediately appealed. The Third Circuit heard oral arguments in May 2019.

On July 12, 2019, the Third Circuit ruled against the Little Sisters. Becket has argued all along that the government has many ways to provide services to women who want them as well as protect the Little Sisters. Neither the federal government nor the state governments need nuns to help them give out contraceptives. On October 1, 2019, the Little Sisters of the Poor asked the Supreme Court to protect them from the HHS contraceptive mandate again and end their legal battle once and for all. On January 17, 2020 the Supreme Court agreed to review the Third Circuit’s decision in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Oral argument took place on May 6, 2020.

On July 8, 2020 the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of the Little Sisters of the Poor, allowing them to continue serving the elderly poor and dying without threat of millions of dollars in fines. Writing for the Court, Justice Thomas said that “For over 150 years, the Little Sisters have engaged in faithful service and sacrifice, motivated by a religious calling to surrender all for the sake of their brother. . . . But for the past seven years, they—like many other religious objectors who have participated in the litigation and rulemakings leading up to today’s decision— have had to fight for the ability to continue in their noble work without violating their sincerely held religious beliefs.” The Court held that the federal government was right to protect those beliefs.

Despite losing at the Supreme Court, Pennsylvania continues to ask the federal courts and HHS to change the rules.

Importance to religious liberty 

  • HHS Mandate cases: Winning the HHS mandate cases sets an important precedent, confirming that federal agencies cannot unnecessarily force religious people to violate their beliefs in order to further a government goal.  
  • Religious communitiesReligious communities have the right to organize and operate according to their beliefs without the government discriminating among sincere religious.
  • Individual freedomReligious individuals and organizations are free to follow their faith in all aspects of their lives, including in the workplace and not just in houses of worship.

California v. Little Sisters of the Poor

WEBSITE for Little Sisters Cases

More information on the history of the HHS mandate and HHS cases can be found here. 

Despite Supreme Court victory and new rule, the Little Sisters are still in court 

In October 2017, Health & Human Services issued a new rule with an updated, broad religious exemption that finally protected religious non-profits like the Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of Catholic nuns who care for the elderly poor. In its new rule, the government admitted that it broke the law by trying to force the Little Sisters and others to provide services like the week-after-pill in their health plans that violated their religious beliefs.  

But the Little Sisters are still in court. Following the new mandate announcement, the state of California sued the federal government to take away the Little Sisters’ religious exemption. California admits that it has many of its own programs to provide contraceptives to women who want them. California never filed suit over the much larger secular exemptions created by the Obama Administration for big corporations—exemptions that applied to tens of millions more people than the religious exemption. California’s own mandate does not even apply to the Little Sisters of the Poor. And California has not identified a single actual person who had contraceptive coverage but will lose it because of this new rule. Despite all this, California asked a judge to find that the Little Sisters should be forced to comply with the federal mandate (not a state mandate) or pay tens of millions of dollars of government fines. 

Becket is seeing the Little Sisters through their fight 

On November 21, 2017, Becket intervened on behalf of the Little Sisters of the Poor in California and Pennsylvania. Becket has argued all along that the government has many ways to provide services to women who want them as well as protect the Little Sisters. Neither the federal government nor the state governments need nuns to help them give out contraceptives. 

On December 12, 2017, the Little Sisters argued in an Oakland, California district court for their right to participate in the case and receive protection from government fines. On December 29, 2017, the court granted their motion to intervene in the case. In January 2018, the Little Sisters appealed to the Ninth Circuit to overturn a federal judge’s decision to invalidate the new HHS rule protecting the Sisters. Becket’s brief, filed in April 2018, explained why the states have no right to challenge this regulation, and why the new regulation is required by law and the 2016 Supreme Court order in Zubik v. Burwell. 

Ninth Circuit gives CA the go-ahead to continue its fight against the Little Sisters 

Oral argument took place on October 19, 2018. On November 7, 2018 the government issued a new rule finalizing its exemption protecting religious ministries. On December 13, 2018, the Ninth Circuit ruled against HHS’s interim exemption and allowed California to continue its fight against the Little Sisters. The Ninth Circuit ruling did not address the final HHS rules. 

On January 11, 2019, Becket represented the Little Sisters at oral argument in federal court in Oakland, California to defend their religious exemption from the HHS mandate. On January 14, 2019, the court ruled against them – a decision which the Little Sisters immediately appealed. The Ninth Circuit heard oral arguments on June 6, 2019. On October 22, the Ninth Circuit ruled 2-1 against the Little Sisters, stating it would “welcome guidance from the Supreme Court.”

On July 8, 2020, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of the Little Sisters in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania protecting the Little Sisters for the third time, and sent California v. Little Sisters of the Poor back to the Ninth Circuit to be decided in light of the Court’s decision.


Importance to Religious Liberty:

  • HHS Mandate cases: Winning the HHS mandate cases sets an important precedent, confirming that federal agencies cannot unnecessarily force religious people to violate their beliefs in order to further a government goal.  
  • Religious communities: Religious communities have the right to organize and operate according to their beliefs without fear of government interference.
  • Individual freedom: Religious individuals and organizations are free to follow their faith in all aspects of their lives, including in the workplace and not just in houses of worship.

HHS finally protects Baptist universities

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 Rassbachdeputy 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 atmedia@becketlaw.orgor 202-349-7224.Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.  

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 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, includingBuddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians(read more here). 

HHS finally protects Little Sisters of the Poor

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new HHS mandate rule announced this morning will at least temporarily protect the Little Sisters of the Poor from providing services 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.  

The rule aligns with the Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling last year protecting the Little Sisters in Zubik v. Burwell protecting the Little Sisters, which says 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.   

“The new rule is a victory for common sense,” said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel with Becket. “The previous administration pursued a needless and divisive culture war. It was always ridiculous to claim you need nuns to give out contraceptives. This new rule shows that you don’t.”  

The interim final rule takes effect immediately, but can be revised by HHS before being issued as final. The rule strikes a balance between contraceptive access and religious liberty by retaining the Obama Administration’s contraceptive mandate but adding a targeted religious exemption.  

“It should be easy for the courts to finalize this issue now that the government admits it broke the law. For months, we have been waiting for Department of Justice lawyers to honestly admit that fact, like the President did in the Rose Garden five months ago,” said Rienzi. “Now that the agencies admit the mandate was illegal, we expect the leadership of the Department of Justice will cooperate in getting a final court resolution so the Little Sisters can stop thinking about lawyers and mandates and return to spending all their energies caring for the elderly.”  

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 Little Sisters’ religious liberty and that there are many other ways to obtain contraceptives. 

Today’s interim rule also affects other Becket clients, including Christian Brothers Services, Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust, Houston Baptist and East Texas Baptist Universities, 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 atmedia@becketlaw.orgor 202-349-7224.Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. 

 

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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, includingBuddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians(read more here). 

Press Call: Implications of new HHS Rule on Little Sisters of the Poor lawsuit

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new HHS mandate announced moments ago now provides an exemption for religious groups, including the Little Sisters of the Poor and other religious charities, while maintaining the existing federal contraceptive mandate for most employers. The interim rule aligns with the Supreme Court’s ruling last year in Zubik v. Burwell that the government cannot fine the religious groups for following their faith.   

There will be a press call at noon EST today to discuss the new rule and what it means for the Little Sisters’ ongoing lawsuit.  

The following statement may be attributed to Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at Becket and lead attorney for the Little Sisters of the Poor: “HHS has issued a balanced rule that respects all sides– it keeps the contraceptive mandate in place for most employers and now provides a religious exemption. The Little Sisters still need to get final relief in court, which should be easy now that the government admits it broke the law.” 

What:
Press call to discuss new HHS Mandate protecting the Little Sisters of the Poor 

Who:
Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at Becket 

When:
Oct. 6, 2017 at 12:15 pm EST 

Press Call Information:
888-670-9385 | Pin #: 54523
Email media@becketlaw.org with questions 

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Melinda Skea atmedia@becketlaw.orgor 202-349-7224.Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.  

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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, includingBuddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians(read more here). 

Leaked rule would protect Little Sisters of the Poor and religious charities

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Little Sisters of the Poor and other religious groups would be protected from the HHS mandate under a new draft rule leaked today, fulfilling a Supreme Court ruling last year and President Trump’s promise earlier this month. The new regulation, currently under review, would exempt religious groups from the requirement to cover services like the week-after pill. But the new rule would leave in place the religious “accommodation” created by the Obama administration, making that route available to groups that choose to continue using it.

“Better late than never,” said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel with Becket. “At long last the United States government acknowledges that people can get contraceptives without forcing nuns to provide them. That is sensible, fair, and in keeping with the Supreme Court’s order and the President’s promise to the Little Sisters and other religious groups serving the poor.”

The older version of the rule already contained enormous exemptions, just not for religious groups like the Little Sisters and other charities serving the poor. One hundred million Americans—nearly one in three—don’t have insurance plans that must comply with this mandate. The government was already exempting large corporations like Exxon and Visa, and even its own government-run plans for the disabled and military families. It’s time to bring some common sense to this regulation and protect religious groups serving those in need.

Most of the new rule’s language updates the existing “accommodation” for religious groups, ensuring that the option is still available for religious groups that choose to use it. It broadens the exemption created by the Obama Administration to cover a broader group of employers with sincere religious or moral objections to particular services, such as the week-after pill. The new rule also makes it clear that insurers may issue separate policies to women whose employers are exempt from the mandate.

“You will hear the number 55 million bandied about by opponents of the Little Sisters of the Poor. But the actual number of affected employees is less than 3/10ths of one percent of 55 million. This is Chicken Little on steroids,” says Rienzi.

The contraceptive mandate issue has been to the Supreme Court five times, and each time the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of broader protections for religious groups. This rule, if made official in this form, is consistent with those Supreme Court rulings. If the rule goes into effect, further legal action will still be necessary to wrap up the challenges to the prior version of the mandate.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Melinda Skea atmedia@becketlaw.orgor 202-349-7224.Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

 

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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, includingBuddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians  (read more here).

 

Breaking: Press call to discuss possible HHS change to protect Little Sisters

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today a version of a new rule protecting religious conscientious objectors like the Little Sisters of the Poor was leaked to the press. There will be a press call starting at 12:45 p.m. EST today to discuss the leaked HHS interim rule and the impact it will have on the Little Sisters of the Poor’s case.

The following statement may be attributed to Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at Becket and lead attorney for the Little Sisters of the Poor: “At long last the United States government has acknowledged that people can get contraceptives without forcing nuns to provide them. That is sensible, fair, and in keeping with the President’s promise to the Little Sisters and other religious groups serving the poor. This leaked interim rule, if issued as written, is an important first step in allowing the Little Sisters to focus on serving the poor rather than defending themselves against their own government.”

What:
Press Call to discuss possible HHS Mandate to protect the Little Sisters of the Poor

Who:
Mark Rienzi, senior attorney at Becket

When:
Wednesday, May 31, 2017 at 12:45 p.m. EST

Press Call Information:
888-670-9385 | Pin #: 54523
Email media@becketlaw.org with questions

 For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Melinda Skea atmedia@becketlaw.orgor 202-349-7224.Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

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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, includingBuddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians(read more here).

President pledges support for the Little Sisters of the Poor

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – After nearly five years and multiple wins at the Supreme Court, the Little Sisters of the Poor are a step closer to being free to serve. The 175-year-old religious order of women who care for the elderly poor received important presidential support in their long legal battle today. For four years, the Little Sisters have fought against a government mandate that would have forced them to provide services such as the week-after pill against their beliefs – even though the government already exempted plans covering one in three Americans, large corporations like Exxon and Pepsi, and its own insurance plans for military families. Today the President instructed government agencies and lawyers to respect religious liberty and consider how to change the mandate to comply with applicable law.

The Supreme Court heard the Little Sisters’ case last March, along with several other non-profit religious groups. Two months later, the Court unanimously ruled in favor of the Little Sisters, erasing the lower court’s ruling against them and ordering the government not to fine the nuns.

“Nearly one year ago today the Supreme Court protected our ability to serve the elderly poor while remaining true to our faith,” said Mother Loraine, Mother Provincial of the Little Sisters of the Poor. “Today we are grateful for the President’s order and look forward to the agencies giving us an exemption so that we can continue caring for the elderly poor and dying as if they were Christ himself without the fear of government punishment.”

The Sisters previously received unanimous protection from the Supreme Court and a midnight reprieve on New Year’s Eve 2013 before government fines were about to begin. In all, the government brought its mandate to the Supreme Court five times and lost five times. And those decisions were unanimous in the two cases involving the Little Sisters.

“The President’s order makes clear that all federal agencies and lawyers must obey the law and respect religious liberty,” said Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel at Becket, which represents the Little Sisters and others challenging the HHS Mandate. “As the Supreme Court’s orders show, it was unnecessary and illegal to impose this mandate on the Little Sisters and other religious organizations. Our country has enough real problems without picking pointless culture wars against women who spend their lives caring for the elderly poor. America is better than that.”

The legal battle started when the government created a new regulation requiring the Little Sisters and other non-profit religious groups to change their healthcare plan to provide services that violate their faith. The government refused to exempt the Little Sisters, even though it exempts health plans covering 1 in 3 Americans simply for reasons of cost or convenience (see the numbers here). The government also exempts large corporations like Exxon, Chevron and Pepsi, because they never changed their plans and so are grandfathered. And it exempts the massive health plan covering U.S. military families. But the government refused to give the same right to the Little Sisters.

“The writing has been on the wall for a long time, which is why even the Obama Administration told the Supreme Court that there were other ways to achieve its goals,” said Rienzi. “President Trump deserves credit for his order, and now the agencies and government lawyers need to follow through to finally give up this futile crusade.”

The Little Sisters have received widespread support in their case, including from a diverse coalition of religious leaders representing Jewish, Muslim, Native American, Catholic, Protestant and other faiths as well as over 200 Democratic and Republican Members of Congress. Today’s order also affects other Becket clients, including Christian Brothers Services, Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust, Houston Baptist and East Texas Baptist UniversitiesReaching Souls International, Truett-McConnell College, GuideStone Financial Services of the Southern Baptist Convention, Colorado Christian University, Wheaton College, Ave Maria University, and Eternal Word Television Network.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or 202-349-7224. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

Additional Information:

###

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians (read more).

Media Advisory: Press call to discuss Presidential Executive Order on religious liberty

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – Moments ago, the President signed an executive order protecting the Little Sisters of the Poor, a 175-year-old religious order of women who care for the elderly poor, and other religious nonprofits around the country from the government’s contraceptive mandate. The executive order comes after the Little Sisters fought imposition of the mandate in four years of litigation and after multiple wins at the Supreme Court. The executive order instructs government officials to follow religious liberty laws, including the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and reconsider the mandate, which would force the Little Sisters to provide services, such as the week-after pill, against their religious beliefs. The government fought to impose this mandate on the Little Sisters even though the government already exempted plans covering one in three Americans, large corporations like Exxon and Pepsi, and its own insurance plans for the disabled and military families.

A press call to discuss the implications of the Executive Order and the future of its impact on the Little Sisters of the Poor will be held this morning/afternoon at 12:15 p.m. Eastern at 888-670-9385 (Pin: 54523).

What:
Press Call to discuss the The Little Sisters of the Poor 

Who: 
Lori Windham, senior counsel at Becket

When: 
Thursday, May 4 at 12:15 p.m. Eastern

How to join:
Dial in number: 888-670-9385
Pin: 54523
Email questions in advance to: media@becketlaw.org

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or 202-349-7224. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

Additional Information:

###

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians (read more).

Becket’s statement regarding negotiations with the Department of Justice about the contraceptive mandate

Becket’s Statement:

Becket is pleased to report that productive negotiations with the Department of Justice about the contraceptive mandate have recently resumed. We are quite hopeful that these negotiations will be fruitful and that the government will promptly provide relief to our clients both in court and in the regulatory process. We are confident and expect that the administration will remain steadfast in its commitment to conscience rights and will promptly get to a resolution that fully reflects our nation’s longstanding commitment to religious liberty for all.

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Belmont Abbey College v. Sebelius

Unconstitutional mandate threatens a Benedictine college

Founded by Benedictine monks, Belmont Abbey College celebrates a rich thousand-year-old monastic tradition of dedicated prayer and learning. Since 1876, the college has striven to carry out a clear mission: “That in all things God may be glorified.” But in 2011, Belmont Abbey’s right to live out its Catholic values was threatened by the federal government.

A new federal mandate by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) required the Catholic college to provide services such as the week-after pill in its insurance plans. The HHS mandate forced Belmont Abbey to either violate the Catholic values that drives its mission or pay massive fines to the IRS.

Becket defends religious groups from government interference

As a Catholic liberal arts college, Belmont Abbey upholds the teachings of the Catholic Church, including the respect for all human life. Participating in a system to provide services such as contraception, sterilization, and abortion pills would contradict the Catholic mission it seeks to advance.

Although the government exempted certain religious employers, the requirements were extremely narrow, limited only to religious employers who primarily serve and employ those of their same faith. Belmont Abbey had no choice but to go to court to defend its right to remain true to its Catholic convictions. With Becket’s help, Belmont Abbey challenged the HHS mandate in federal court in November 2011.

In September 2012, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, granted a motion for expedited appeal. In December, the court handed an intermediate victory to Belmont Abbey when it commanded HHS to act quickly to fix the HHS Mandate. But after the government’s new promised accommodation still infringed on the Catholic university’s beliefs, Becket refiled Belmont Abbey’s lawsuit in November 2013. In January 2014, the D.C. Circuit stayed the case pending decisions in similar cases before the same court.

After joining a class-action lawsuit, Belmont Abbey College voluntarily dismissed their own case in November 2014.

On October 6, 2017, Health & Human Services issued a new rule with an exemption that protects religious ministries, in compliance with the Supreme Court’s 2016 ruling and a Presidential Executive Order. In its new rule, the government admitted that it broke the law by trying to force religious groups to provide services in their health plans that violated their religious beliefs like the week-after pill. On November 7, 2018, the government finalized that rule, continuing to protect religious ministries.


Importance to religious liberty 

  • HHS Mandate cases: Winning the HHS mandate cases sets an important precedent, confirming that federal agencies cannot unnecessarily force religious people to violate their beliefs in order to further a government goal.  
  • Religious communitiesReligious communities have the right to organize and operate according to their beliefs without fear of government interference.
  • Individual freedomReligious individuals and organizations are free to follow their faith in all aspects of their lives, including in the workplace and not just in houses of worship.

Wheaton College v. Azar

A college with a mission of faith

Wheaton College’s mission expresses its commitment to do all things “For Christ and His Kingdom.” Founded in 1860 by the prominent abolitionist Jonathan Blanchard, Wheaton’s history is marked by the stories of students and alumni whose faith drives them to affect the church and society for good.

An unconstitutional federal mandate 

In 2010, the federal government issued a mandate, regulated by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), that forced Wheaton College to include services like the week-after pill in its insurance plans, which violated its deeply held beliefs. Despite Wheaton’s expressed religious objections, the government refused to grant the College a religious exemption. In July 2012, Wheaton College sued the government to protect its right to operate according to its religious mission without the threat of government fines.

Wheaton College’s first lawsuit was delayed for over a year by the government’s promise of a religious accommodation—but the government still insisted that Wheaton College was not a “religious employer” and was ineligible for an exemption. In the meantime, though, Wheaton’s lawsuit forced the federal government to rewrite its one-year “safe harbor” condition to include Wheaton, giving the College another year to comply with the mandate or face crippling fines. As a result of the change, a federal judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed Wheaton College’s lawsuit as premature. In September 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit granted a motion for expedited appeal, which later handed an intermediate victory to the religious colleges by ordering HHS to act quickly to fix the existing HHS mandate.

The government’s proposed “accommodation” turned out not to be much of a fix, and it still required Wheaton to choose between its belief in the sanctity of life or millions of dollars in government fines. So in December 2013, Becket refiled its lawsuit on behalf of Wheaton. In June 2014, the district court denied Wheaton’s request for relief. Wheaton appealed. In July 2014, while the case was on appeal, Wheaton received last minute protection from the Supreme Court against IRS fines. In July 2015, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals denied Wheaton College relief from the mandate. Finally, in May 2016, the Supreme Court decided the related case Zubik v. Burwell. The Supreme Court’s decision ordered the government to explore alternatives that would protect religious freedom. On October 6, 2017, the government issued a new rule with broader religious exemption, admitting that the mandate was illegal as applied to religious objectors, including Wheaton College.

A five-year fight ends in resounding victory

On February 22, 2018, Wheaton’s five-year legal battle finally came to an end when the district court ruled in Wheaton College’s favor, protecting the College from any current or future application of the mandate.


Importance to religious liberty:

  • Individual freedom: Government cannot force religious individuals or groups to violate their deeply held beliefs to further a government goal when there are other ways for the government to accomplish that goal.
  • Religious communities: Faith-based organizations, including schools, have the right to operate according to their religious mission free of government interference.
  • HHS mandate: For years, the federal government has refused or delayed relief from the HHS mandate to religious organizations. The 2018 victory for Wheaton is a critical step in securing robust religious liberty protections from the mandate for all religious non-profits. 

Reaching Souls International v. Azar

Evangelical ministries challenge a federal mandate

In 2013, an orphan care ministry, a Christian college, and a 100-year-old Baptist ministry went to court to challenge the HHS mandate, which forced them to violate their beliefs or pay crippling IRS fines. The mandate required employers to provide services like the week-after pill in their health insurance plans but did not accommodate religious ministries like Reaching Souls International, Truett-McConnell College, and GuideStone Financial Resources.

Reaching Souls International is a nonprofit evangelistic ministry that has preached the Gospel to over 20 million people and rescued hundreds of orphans in Africa, India, and Cuba by placing them into loving homes. If Reaching Souls does not comply with the government’s mandate, it will face each year in IRS fines.

Truett-McConnell College is a Georgia Baptist college committed to training students to share the Gospel by providing a biblically-centered education. If Truett-McConnell does not comply with the mandate, it will face millions of dollars each year in IRS fines.

GuideStone Financial Resources has been the benefits arm of the Southern Baptist Convention for over 100 years and provides retirement and health benefits to thousands of Southern Baptist churches and evangelical ministries like Reaching Souls and Truett-McConnell College.

Defending their religious mission and beliefs

These evangelical ministries simply could not comply with the mandate to provide free access to abortion-inducing drugs and devices through the GuideStone health plan because doing so would violate their Christian beliefs about the sanctity of human life. While the government exempted churches and church-controlled ministries from the mandate, it refused to exempt religious ministries like Reaching Souls and Truett-McConnell College.

Faced with no choice but to defend their beliefs, the ministries filed suit in October 2013, representing over 187 ministries that both relied on GuideStone for health benefits and faced massive IRS fines for refusing to violate their beliefs.

In December 2013, their case became the first class-action suit to win relief from the government’s HHS mandate. But on July 14, 2015, the Tenth Circuit reversed the district court decision and ruled against the evangelical ministries. On July 23, 2015, GuideStone, Reaching Souls, and Truett-McConnell appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court and a new federal rule protect ministries

Reaching Souls, Truett-McConnell, and GuideStone’s fight brought them all the way to the Supreme Court, which on November 6, 2015 agreed to hear their case along with several other religious ministries. The U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in the landmark case, Zubik v. Burwell. Zubik granted a victory to religious non-profits by directing the government to find another way to achieve its goals without violating religious liberty. Because of that ruling, the Tenth Circuit threw out its previous ruling against Reaching Souls, Truett-McConnell, and GuideStone, instead ordering the ministries and the government to address possible alternatives to the mandate.

On October 6, 2017, the government issued a new rule with a broader religious exemption. On November 7, 2018, the federal government issued a final rule protecting religious ministries like Reaching Souls while offering alternative means for women to obtain free contraception.

Becket and Locke Lord LLP represented Reaching Souls, Truett-McConnell, and GuideStone in their fight for religious freedom. This was the second class action filed challenging the administration’s mandate; the first was filed by Becket and Locke Lord LLP on behalf of the Little Sisters of the Poor and hundreds of Catholic ministries participating in the Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust, a national plan for Catholic employers. Becket also represented Eternal Word Television Network, Houston Baptist University, and others in similar lawsuits against the HHS mandate.

Importance to religious liberty:

  • HHS Mandate cases: Winning the HHS mandate cases sets an important precedent, confirming that the government cannot unnecessarily force religious people to violate their beliefs.
  • Religious communities: Religious communities have the right to build and lead their ministries according to their beliefs free from governmental discrimination.
  • Individual freedom: Religious individuals and organizations are free to follow their faith in all aspects of their lives, including in the workplace.

Little Sisters of the Poor v. Azar

An unconstitutional federal mandate 

In August 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a federal mandate as part of the Affordable Care Act. The mandate required employers to provide all FDA-approved contraceptives in their health insurance plans, including the week-after pill, free of cost. Despite the obvious religious liberty issues with a contraceptive mandate, HHS included only a narrow religious exemption—one that did not include religious non-profits like the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic order of nun that runs homes for the elderly poor across the country.  

The Little Sisters’ Catholic beliefs about life and contraception meant that complying with the mandate was impossible. The Little Sisters initially tried to communicate their concerns with the federal government. In good faith, they believed that the government would grant them an exemption. After all, HHS already exempted thousands of other secular employers whose plans were “grandfathered” in under the new rule—including Exxon, Pepsi Bottling, and Visa—and even exempted the healthcare programs for the U.S. military. Instead, HHS doubled down, continued to refuse to exempt the Little Sisters, and threatened them with ruinous fines of tens of millions of dollars if they did not comply with the mandate.  

Five years of litigation—including at the Supreme Court 

In September 2013, represented by Becket, the Little Sisters of the Poor went to court against the federal government to protect their religious freedom. After a district court ruled against them, the Little Sisters appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, which again ruled against them. However, on December 31, 2013, Justice Sotomayor of the U.S. Supreme Court granted the Little Sisters emergency protection against the rule, temporarily protecting them from fines. The entire Court then granted the Little Sisters a longer-term injunction in January 2014, and sent the case back to the Tenth Circuit for reconsideration. 

But after the Tenth Circuit ruled against the Little Sisters once more, the U.S. Supreme Court again agreed to review the Little Sisters’ case. In March 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Zubik v. Burwell, a consolidation of six cases brought by religious non-profits against the mandate, including the Little Sisters of the Poor. At the Supreme Court, the Obama administration admitted to the Court that the mandate required the Little Sisters’ participation and the use of their health plan, and that the government could provide contraceptive services in other ways that didn’t require using the Little Sisters. These key admissions cleared the path for the Supreme Court to find a solution.

In May 2016, the Supreme Court unanimously overturned the lower court rulings against the Little Sisters, ordered the government not to fine the Little Sisters, and instructed the lower courts to provide the government an opportunity to find a way to provide services to the women who want them without involving the Little Sisters.  

Resolution at last, and a win-win outcome 

The Supreme Court decision was a victory, but one that would take another two years to reach completion. In May 2017, President Trump issued an Executive Order directing HHS and other federal agencies to protect the Little Sisters of the Poor and other religious non-profits from the mandate.  

On October 6, 2017, the government issued a new rule with a broader religious exemption. In June 2018, the Little Sisters’ original case was finally resolved with an order by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. And on November 7, 2018, HHS issued a rule  finalizing the Little Sisters’ religious exemption.  

The unanimous decision by the Supreme Court and the President’s executive order were big wins for the Little Sisters. But that does not mean anyone lost. As the Little Sisters had argued all along, the solution in no way bars the government from providing these services to women who want them. In fact, any alternative delivery method the government chooses could likely be applied not only to women in religious plans, but to the tens of millions of women in corporate and government plans HHS had previously exempted from the mandate. In the end, the government was able to both provide the mandated services free of charge to any woman who wanted them and accommodate the Little Sisters’ religious beliefs.  


IMPORTANCE TO RELIGIOUS LIBERTY 

  • HHS Mandate cases: Winning the HHS mandate cases sets an important precedent, confirming that federal agencies cannot unnecessarily force religious people to violate their beliefs in order to further a government goal. 
  • Religious communitiesReligious communities have the right to organize and operate according to their beliefs without the government dictating their beliefs.
  • Individual freedomReligious individuals and organizations must be free to follow their faith in all aspects of their lives, both privately and publicly, at home and in the workplace.

Franciscan Alliance v. Becerra

In May 2016, the federal government issued a mandate requiring that virtually every healthcare provider in the country be willing to perform and provide insurance coverage for gender-transition procedures. The mandate made no exception for providers who believe those procedures to be harmful or object to them on religious grounds, and it applied to all patients, including children.

The mandate elevated ideology over medicine. A growing body of research shows there significant risks with gender reassignment therapy, such as heart conditions, increased cancer risk, and loss of bone density. Moreover, most children who experience gender dysphoria grow out of it naturally without these invasive and irreversible procedures. So under the mandate, many doctors were being required to violate not only their religious beliefs, but also the Hippocratic Oath, on pain of draconian penalties.

An association of over 19,000 healthcare professionals, eight states, and two religious hospitals challenged the mandate in the federal court for the Northern District of Texas. (A similar suit, involving other challengers, was filed in North Dakota). In December 2016, the Texas court issued a preliminary ruling that the policy was an unlawful overreach by a federal agency and a likely violation of religious liberty. And in October 2019, the court confirmed its earlier ruling, explaining that doctors must be free to practice in their field of medicine without being forced to perform these controversial procedures that violate their faith.

The court did not, however, issue an order permanently stopping the government from imposing this unlawful mandate on religious hospitals and doctors. Becket therefore appealed on behalf of the challengers. In April 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that the district court should consider further whether to grant that lasting protection.

Back at the district court, in August 2021, the judge granted the permanent relief the doctors and hospitals sought. Under the district court’s final ruling, the government may not require the challengers to perform or insure gender-transition procedures contrary to their faith and medical judgment going forward—even if the agency tinkers around the edges with the language of its mandate.

Dissatisfied with not being able to force religious healthcare providers to violate their faith, in late 2021, the federal government, along with the ACLU, appealed the decision back to the Fifth Circuit. Oral argument will take place on August 4, 2022.

More information can be found at www.transgendermandate.org.


Importance to Religious Liberty:

  • Individual Freedom: The freedom of conscience is the human right to believe, express beliefs, and act according to the dictates of an individual’s conscience. Becket defends the right of all individuals to live according to their consciences without government coercion.

Eternal Word Television Network v. Azar

An unconstitutional mandate threatened nun-founded Catholic television network

Thirty years ago, a cloistered nun named Mother Angelica started a small television network in her monastery garage to spread the teachings of the Catholic church. Today, the network she started, Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), continues her mission. But in 2011, EWTN’s ability to remain to its Catholic faith was threatened by the federal government.

In August 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a federal mandate that required employers to provide services like the week-after pill in their health insurance plans, free of cost. Because the government refused to grant religious exemptions to religious non-profits like EWTN, the mandate would force the nun’s network to authorize and take part in providing contraceptives, sterilization, and abortion drugs to EWTN’s employees—fundamentally violating EWTN’s Catholic beliefs and mission. If EWTN did not comply with the mandate, it would face millions of dollars in fines from the IRS.

To continue its religious mission, EWTN spent seven years in court

EWTN refused to be part of the government’s plan to provide contraceptive services and drugs that destroy human life. In February 2012, Becket stepped in to represent EWTN in federal court.

What followed was nearly seven years of constant litigation. In June 2014, an Alabama district court ruled against EWTN days before the non-profit was due to face millions of dollars in IRS fines. Becket filed an emergency appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which granted EWTN emergency protection from the fines while its case was still ongoing. Then, in February 2015, the Eleventh Circuit ruled against EWTN—but it gave them shelter from the mandate until the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in the landmark case, Zubik v. Burwell. The Supreme Court’s decision in that case granted a victory to religious non-profits by directing the government to find another way to achieve its goals without violating religious liberty. Because of that ruling, the Eleventh Circuit threw out its previous ruling against EWTN and instead ordered EWTN and the government to address possible alternatives to the mandate.

A hard-won victory, at last

On October 6, 2017, the government issued a new rule with a broader religious exemption, and on November 7, 2018, HHS issued a rule finalizing the exemption. On November 29, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit finally granted EWTN a hard-won victory when it ruled to end EWTN’s seven-year legal battle.


Importance to religious liberty:

  • HHS Mandate cases: Winning the HHS mandate cases sets an important precedent, confirming that the government cannot unnecessarily force religious people to violate their beliefs.
  • Religious communities: Religious communities have the right to build and lead their ministries according to their beliefs free from governmental discrimination.
  • Individual freedom: Religious individuals and organizations are free to follow their faith in all aspects of their lives, including in the workplace.

East Texas Baptist University & Houston Baptist University v. Azar

Two Christ-centered Texas universities share a mission

East Texas Baptist University and Houston Baptist University are Christian liberal arts colleges in Texas that hold faith central to their educational missions.

East Texas Baptist University (ETBU) is committed to “Christian stewardship” and “academic excellence while integrating faith with learning.”  Its religious beliefs include traditional Christian teachings on the sanctity of life—this includes that all human beings bear the image and likeness of God, and therefore that all human life is sacred and worth protecting.

The founders of Houston Baptist University (HBU) wanted to establish a Christian college that emphasized quality of life as well as quality of learning. The University’s current mission statement emphasizes the important Christian witness of its administration, faculty, and students, which abides by their central confession: “Jesus Christ is Lord.”

Baptists in America are sensitive to forced government actions that infringe on their religious liberty. America’s first Baptist leader, Roger Williams, fled Massachusetts and founded a colony in Providence, Rhode Island, because his religious beliefs were not allowed under Massachusetts laws. The rich Baptist tradition is manifested in the missions of these two Christ-centered Texas universities, so when a government mandate threatened their beliefs, they were forced to court to defend their religious freedom.

Challenging the HHS mandate

In 2011, the Department of Health & Human Services issued a mandate that forced these universities to either violate their faith-driven mission by providing services, such as the week after pill, or pay crippling IRS fines. So in October 2012, East Texas Baptist University and Houston Baptist University went to court with Becket’s help to fight this unconstitutional mandate.

In March 2013, Westminster Theological Seminary intervened in Becket’s lawsuit on behalf of ETBU and HBU in federal district court, which ruled in favor of the religious universities in December 2013. The government appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which reversed the district court’s decision in June 2015.

In July 2015, Becket, along with former Solicitor General and leading Supreme Court advocate Paul Clement, appealed to the Supreme Court on the universities’ behalf. In March 2016 the Court heard the case along with the Little Sisters of the Poor and other religious non-profits in the consolidated case called Zubik v. Burwell.

Unanimous win-win outcome at the Supreme Court

On May 16, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously protected the religious groups, stating that that the government cannot fine ETBU and HBU for carrying out their religious beliefs in their health plans and must find another way to provide services to women who want them. It also threw out the lower court decision against the universities.

In May 2017, President Trump issued an Executive Order directing HHS and other federal agencies to protect the Little Sisters of the Poor and other religious ministries from the HHS mandate. Following the order, HHS Secretary Tom Price said that HHS “will be taking action in short order” to protect the Little Sisters and other religious ministries harmed by the mandate.

On October 6, 2017, the government issued a new rule with a broader religious exemption. On November 7, 2018, the federal government issued a final rule protecting religious ministries like ETBU and HBU while offering alternative means for women to obtain free contraception.


Importance to Religious Liberty:

  • HHS Mandate cases: Winning the HHS mandate cases sets an important precedent, confirming that federal agencies cannot unnecessarily force religious people to violate their beliefs in order to further a government goal. 
  • Religious communitiesReligious communities have the right to organize and operate according to their beliefs without the government dictating their beliefs.
  • Individual freedomReligious individuals and organizations must be free to follow their faith in all aspects of their lives, both privately and publicly, at home and in the workplace.

Colorado Christian University v. Azar

“A university like Colorado Christian University, whose employees and students share its religious convictions concerning the sanctity of life, should not be forced against its beliefs to distribute drugs that it deems to be morally wrong.” – Senior Counsel Eric Baxter

An unconstitutional mandate threatens a Christ-centered university

For almost a century, Colorado Christian University has offered an education that develops students intellectually, professionally, and spiritually. It’s faith-central mission seeks to cultivate knowledge and a love of God in a Christ-centered community, with an enduring commitment to spiritual formation. But in 2011, CCU’s founding principles were threatened by the federal government.

In 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a federal mandate requiring employers to provide services like the week-after pill in their health insurance plans.  The government’s unprecedented intrusion into the health care realm forced the university to authorize and take part in providing services that violated their beliefs, or face crippling fines.

CCU fights back

In December 2011, CCU launched its initial lawsuit against the government’s unconstitutional mandate, making it the first interdenominational Christian college to challenge the HHS mandate in federal court. In August 2013, Becket stepped in to refile CCU’s lawsuit after the government’s new promised “accommodations” still infringed on the Christian university’s religious beliefs. In June 2014, the university won temporary relief at the federal district court.

On October 6, 2017, the government issued a new rule with a broader religious exemption for religious non-profits. On July 11, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit granted the university a permanent injunction, protecting CCU from having to violate its faith. And on November 7, 2018, the federal government issued a final rule protecting religious ministries like CCU.

Colorado Christian University is now free to continue carrying out its educational mission according to its religious beliefs.


Importance to Religious Liberty

  • HHS Mandate cases: Winning the HHS mandate cases sets an important precedent, confirming that the government cannot unnecessarily force religious people to violate their beliefs.
  • Religious communities: Religious communities have the right to build and lead their ministries according to their beliefs free from governmental discrimination.
  • Individual freedom: Religious individuals and organizations are free to follow their faith in all aspects of their lives, including in the workplace.

Ave Maria University v. Burwell

A service-oriented university inspired by Mother Theresa

Ave Maria University is a Catholic liberal arts educational institution dedicated to the formation of joyful, intentional followers of Christ through scholarship and service. The university is committed to transmitting authentic Catholic values to its students, who can then carry those values to the world.

President Jim Towey knows first-hand the immense value people of faith can bring society. Before Ave Maria, he served alongside Mother Theresa and worked with her for over 12 years to establish AIDS clinics and homeless shelters. Now through the university’s Mother Theresa Project, students serve domestic at-risk populations, including HIV victims, pregnant women, and displaced immigrants. Abroad, students serve with Habitat for Humanity in local schools, nursing homes, and missions in Mexico, Uganda and India. The university’s bold Catholic identity animates this work.

The HHS mandate threatens the university’s faith

But an unconstitutional mandate soon threatened the very faith that drives Ave Maria’s mission. In 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a federal mandate as part of the Affordable Care Act. The mandate required employers to provide services such as the week-after pill in their healthcare plans free of cost.

This left Ave Maria in a terrible bind: either betray its Catholic beliefs and cover the drugs, or end employee health benefits and pay hundreds of thousands in annual fines.  Faced with an impossible choice, the university went to court to defend its right to freely follow its faith.

Ave Maria fights back—and wins—in court

In August 2013, represented by Becket, Ave Maria refiled its lawsuit in federal district court, which granted the university a preliminary injunction in October 2014.

On October 6, 2017, the government issued a new rule with a broader religious exemption for religious non-profits. On July 11, 2018, the federal district court granted the university a permanent injunction, protecting the university from having to violate its faith. And on November 7, 2018, the federal government issued a final rule protecting religious ministries like Ave Maria, definitively ending the case.

Ave Maria is now free to continue carrying out its educational mission according to its religious beliefs.


Importance to Religious Liberty

  • HHS Mandate cases: Winning the HHS mandate cases sets an important precedent, confirming that the government cannot unnecessarily force religious people to violate their beliefs.
  • Religious communities: Religious communities have the right to build and lead their ministries according to their beliefs free from governmental discrimination.
  • Individual freedom: Religious individuals and organizations are free to follow their faith in all aspects of their lives, including in the workplace.

Two years later, few Hobby Lobby copycats emerge

October 11, 2016, Politico

Several other religious non-profits filed for the accommodation, as well, including St. Joseph’s Abbey, a community of monks in Massachusetts, and the Catholic Diocese of Memphis.
Mark Rienzi, a Becket Fund attorney who has represented several clients opposed to the mandate and accommodation, including the Little Sisters of the Poor order of Catholic nuns, said the number of employers that want to opt out is tiny, compared with employers whose health plans are grandfathered so they don’t have to comply with the contraceptive provision until their health plans change.

Media Advisory: Press Conference to discuss Supreme Court reply briefs in the Little Sisters of the Poor case

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today at 4:00 p.m. EST, Becket will hold a press call to discuss the briefs being submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court in the Little Sisters of the Poor case in Zubik v. Burwell. Both the Little Sisters of the Poor and the government will file briefs, due by 3:00 p.m. EST, in response to the supplemental briefs filed last week (available hereto answer the Court’s question whether the government has other ways to distribute contraceptives without forcing the nuns to violate their faith.

Less than a week after the Supreme Court heard the case of the Little Sisters of the Poor, the Court made an almost unprecedented move asking both sides to provide additional arguments about whether the government could find ways to distribute contraceptives without the involvement of religious non-profits and their health plans. The Little Sisters and other religious non-profit groups told the Supreme Court: “The answer to that question is clear and simple: Yes.”

Currently the government exempts 1 in 3 Americans from this regulation. It also exempts large corporations such as Exxon, Visa and even the government’s own Military family plan. A total of 100 million Americans are exempt.

What:
Press Call for the Little Sisters of the Poor case
(supplemental reply briefs)

Who:
Mark Rienzi, senior counsel of Becket

When:
Today, April 20, 2016 at 4:00 p.m. EST

How to join:
Dial in number: 888-670-9385
Pin: 54523
Email questions in advance to: media@becketlaw.org

For more information or to arrange a follow-up interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org 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).

Pres. Obama confirms HHS Mandate unnecessary

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision yesterday to overturn the lower court ruling against the Little Sisters and forbid the government from fining the Little Sisters for failure to comply with its “contraception mandate,” President Obama applauded the decision as a win for religious freedom and women. In an interview following the decision, President Obama said it was a win for everyone and that women could continue to obtain contraception while the religious plans are protected by the Court from being forced to comply with the HHS mandate.

The government had previously told the Supreme Court that any woman who does not receive contraceptive coverage from her employer can already get free contraceptive coverage from many other sources because those “employees will ordinarily obtain coverage through a family member’s employer, through an individual insurance policy purchased on an Exchange or directly from an insurer, or through Medicaid or another government program.” Following the Court’s decision, President Obama said, “The practical effect right now is that women will still continue to be able to get contraception, if they are getting health insurance. And we are properly accommodating religious institutions who have objections to contraception.”

“I wish HHS had reached the same conclusion five years ago that President Obama did yesterday,” said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at Becket. “But the President’s acknowledgment that any woman who wants free contraception can already get it right now—while the Little Sisters are under Court protection against a forced takeover of their health plan— should effectively end this debate over whether the HHS mandate was necessary to providing women access to these services.”

“The rhetoric from our opponents in this case has never matched the reality,” said Rienzi.  “We hope that the President’s willingness to acknowledge that the Little Sisters’ religious objections have never threatened any woman’s access to contraception will encourage others to tone down their rhetoric and follow his lead.”

The government exempts 1 in 3 Americans from the HHS mandate. It also exempts large corporations such as Exxon, Visa and even the government’s own military family plan. A total of 100 million Americans are exempt from this regulation and could be eligible for coverage under the new solution chosen by the government.

The Little Sisters are joined in their case by many other Becket clients, including Christian Brothers Services, Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust, Houston Baptist and East Texas Baptist Universities, Reaching Souls International, Truett-McConnell College, and GuideStone Financial Services of the Southern Baptist Convention. Other parties in this case include Geneva College, Southern Nazarene University, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington, and the Most Reverend David A. Zubik. All of these clients also had the adverse decisions in their cases vacated and sent back to the lower courts.

Paul D. Clement of Bancroft, PLLC presented the oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court. Noel J. Francisco of Jones Day also presented arguments on behalf of several other ministries. The Little Sisters of the Poor are represented by Becket, Locke Lord LLP, and Professor Kevin Walsh of the University of Richmond Law School.

For more information about the case, visit www.thelittlesistersofthepoor.com.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org 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).

BREAKING: Little Sisters of the Poor win at Supreme Court

WASHINGTON, D.C.– Moments ago, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously decided to send back to the lower courts the case of the Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of nuns who care for the elderly poor. The Court’s decision is a win for the Little Sisters and other groups who needed relief from draconian government fines.

In its decision, the Supreme Court held that after its unprecedented call for supplemental briefing that the lower courts should again review the cases.

“We are very encouraged by the Court’s decision, which is an important win for the Little Sisters. The Court has recognized that the government changed its position,” said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at Becket and lead Becket attorney for the Little Sisters of the Poor. “It is crucial that the Justices unanimously ordered the government not to impose these fines and indicated that the government doesn’t need any notice to figure out what should now be obvious—the Little Sisters respectfully object. There is still work to be done, but today’s decision indicates that we will ultimately prevail in court.”

Becket attorneys will hold on a press call today to discuss the ruling at 11:30 a.m. EST at 888-670-9385, pin number: 54523. Email questions in advance to: media@becketlaw.org.

A full statement will be available here shortly.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket  attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at  media@becketlaw.org  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 traditionsand has a 100% win-rate before the United StatesSupreme 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).

Unanimous Win for Little Sisters of the Poor at Supreme Court

WASHINGTON, D.C. –Today the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the government cannot fine the Little Sisters of the Poor.  The Supreme Court vacated the lower court rulings against the Little Sisters, accepting the government’s admission that it could meet its goals of providing the free services to women without involving the Little Sisters or using their plan.  The Court also ordered the lower Courts to help the government choose an alternative method of providing the services that does not require the participation of the Little Sisters. (see Sister Constance’s reaction here)

“All we have ever wanted to do is serve the neediest among us as if they were Christ himself,” said Sister Loraine Marie Maguire, mother provincial for the Little Sisters of the Poor. “We look forward to serving the elderly poor for another 175 years to come.”

“This is a game-changer.  This unanimous decision is a huge win for the Little Sisters, religious liberty, and all Americans,” said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at Becket. “The Court has accepted the government’s concession that it could deliver these services without the Little Sisters. The Court has eliminated all of the wrong decisions from the lower courts and protected the Little Sisters from government fines.”

Less than a week after the Supreme Court heard the case of the Little Sisters of the Poor in March, the Court made an unprecedented move asking both sides to provide additional arguments about whether the government could find ways to distribute contraceptives without the involvement of religious non-profits and their health plans. The religious non-profits  responded to the Supreme Court: “Yes.”

The government’s lower court argument was that it would deliver the services without using the Little Sisters’ plan and that there was no way to deliver these services except for the path laid out in the mandate.  But before the Supreme Court, the government admitted 1) that its current scheme was impossible without the Little Sisters’ plan and participation, and 2) that the government did have other ways to deliver the services without using the Little Sister’s plan or forcing them to participate.  These admissions changed the decision before the Court from deciding whether the Little Sisters’ religious beliefs should trump government interests to simply requiring the government to truly remove the Little Sisters from the process and protect their religious liberty by meeting government goals through one of the many options it now admitted were possible.

The government exempts 1 in 3 Americans from the HHS mandate. It also exempts large corporations such as Exxon, Visa and even the government’s own military family plan. A total of 100 million Americans are exempt from this regulation and could be eligible for coverage under the new solution chosen by the government.

“The Little Sisters won, but what this unanimous ruling shows is that there was never a need for anyone to lose,” said Rienzi. “The government will still be able to meet its goal of providing these free services to women who want them—not just for those with religious plans—but for the tens of millions in exempted corporate and government plans.”

The Little Sisters’ win was also a win for other Becket clients, including Christian Brothers Services, Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust, Houston Baptist and East Texas Baptist Universities, Reaching Souls International, Truett-McConnell College, and GuideStone Financial Services of the Southern Baptist Convention. Other parties in this case include Geneva College, Southern Nazarene University, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington, and the Most Reverend David A. Zubik. All of these clients also had the adverse decisions in their cases vacated and sent back to the lower courts.

Paul D. Clement of Bancroft, PLLC presented the oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court. Noel J. Francisco of Jones Day also presented arguments on behalf of several other ministries. The Little Sisters of the Poor are represented by Becket, Locke Lord LLP, and Professor Kevin Walsh of the University of Richmond Law School.

For more information about the case, visit  www.thelittlesistersofthepoor.com

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org 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).

Supreme Court victory for Texas Baptist Universities

WASHINGTON, D.C.– Earlier today, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the government cannot fine East Texas Baptist (ETBU) and Houston Baptist (HBU) Universities for carrying out their religious beliefs in their health plans. It also threw out the lower court decision against the universities.

In its decision, the Supreme Court held that after its unprecedented call for supplemental briefing, the lower courts should again review the cases.

“ETBU is very pleased that the Supreme Court threw out the Fifth Circuit ruling against us and also ordered that we cannot be fined for failing to comply with the government’s scheme,” said Blair Blackburn, president of East Texas Baptist University. “The Court is saying that there should be a solution that works for everyone—the government can achieve its objectives, and we can continue following God’s truths and our consciences, while providing excellent Christ-centered education.”

“We are glad that the Supreme Court threw out the decision against us in light of the government’s new position,” said Robert Sloan, president of Houston Baptist University. “Religious liberty is at the core of our identity and so it is vital that it be preserved.”

Less than a week after the Supreme Court heard HBU and ETBU’s case in March, the Court made an unprecedented move asking both sides to provide additional arguments about whether the government could find ways to distribute contraceptives without the involvement of religious non-profits and their health plans. ETBU and HBU responded to the Supreme Court: “Yes.”

The government’s lower court argument was that it would deliver the services without using the Universities’ plans and that there was no way to deliver these services except for the path laid out in the mandate. But before the Supreme Court, the government admitted 1) that its current scheme was impossible without the Universities’ plans and participation, and 2) that the government did have other ways to deliver the services without using their plans or forcing them to participate. These admissions changed the case at the Supreme Court. Instead of deciding whether the government’s interests could trump religious beliefs, the Court simply required the government to truly remove the religious non-profits from the process.

“The Supreme Court has called the government’s bluff.” said Diana Verm, legal counsel at Becket, which represents East Texas Baptist University and Houston Baptist University. “By taking the government at its word, the Court has paved the way for the government to truly accommodate religious beliefs.”

Their case was decided with those of other Becket clients, including the Little Sisters of the Poor, Christian Brothers Services, Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust, Reaching Souls International, Truett-McConnell College, and GuideStone Financial Services of the Southern Baptist Convention. Other parties in this case include Geneva College, Southern Nazarene University, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington, and the Most Reverend David A. Zubik.

Paul D. Clement of Bancroft, PLLC presented the oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court. Noel J. Francisco of Jones Day also presented arguments on behalf of several other ministries. East Texas Baptist University and Houston Baptist University are represented by Becket.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket  attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at  media@becketlaw.org  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 traditionsand has a 100% win-rate before the United StatesSupreme 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).

 

Media Advisory: Press Conference to discuss Supreme Court briefs in the Little Sisters of the Poor case

Media Advisory: Press Conference to discuss Supreme Court briefs in the Little Sisters of the Poor case

For Immediate Release:  April 13, 2016
Media Contact:  Melinda Skea, media@becketlaw.org, 202-349-7224

WASHINGTON, D.C.– Today on April 13, 2016 at 10:00 a.m. EST, Becket will hold a press call to discuss the briefs submitted last night (see resource section below) to the U.S. Supreme Court in the Little Sisters of the Poor case in Zubik v. Burwell.

Less than a week after the Supreme Court heard the case of the Little Sisters of the Poor, the Court made an unprecedented move asking both sides to provide additional arguments about whether the government could find ways to distribute contraceptives without the involvement of religious non-profits and their health plans. The Court had also asked whether, for non-profits who buy traditional insurance plans, the government might hire the same insurance company to provide the drugs.

Currently the government exempts 1 in 3 Americans from this regulation. It also exempts large corporations such as Exxon, Visa and even the government’s own Military family plan. A total of 100 million Americans are exempted.

What:

Press Call for the Little Sisters of the Poor case

Who:

Mark Rienzi, senior counsel of Becket

When:

Wednesday, April 13, 2016 at 10 a.m. EST

How to join:

Dial in number: 888-670-9385

Pin: 54523

Email questions in advance to: media@becketlaw.org

For more information or to arrange a follow-up interview with a Becket Fund attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or 202-349.224. 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 traditionsand has a 100% win-rate before the United StatesSupreme 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).

Religious non-profits tell Court: Yes there is a solution

WASHINGTON, D.C.– Less than a week after the Supreme Court heard the case of the Little Sisters of the Poor (Zubik v. Burwell), the Court made an unprecedented move asking both sides to provide additional arguments about whether the government could find ways to distribute contraceptives without the involvement of religious non-profits and their health plans. The Court had also asked whether, for non-profits who buy traditional insurance plans, the government might hire the same insurance company to provide the drugs.

The religious non-profits told the Supreme Court: “The answer to that question is clear and simple: Yes.”

“These non-profits said “yes” to the Supreme Court, just as they have been saying “yes” to the federal government for many years.” said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at Becket, which represents the Little Sisters of the Poor. “At some point, the government has to learn how to take yes for an answer. The religious objection has always been only to those methods of distribution that forced the non-profits and their plans to participate. The government should move on from this unnecessary fight, and go provide these services some other way that doesn’t use nuns.”

The government exempts 1 in 3 Americans from this regulation. It also exempts large corporations such as Exxon and Pepsi Bottling. A total of 100 million Americans are exempted, yet the Little Sisters of the Poor face millions in fines unless they violate their faith.

“We were encouraged by oral arguments and the Court’s request for supplemental briefs,” said  Sister Loraine Marie Maguire, Mother Provincial for the Little Sisters of the Poor. “We have always believed a solution is possible, and are hopeful the government will let us serve.”

For more information, join Becket attorneys on a press call tomorrow at 10 a.m. EST at 888-670-9385, pin number: 54523. Email questions in advance to: media@becketlaw.org.

The Little Sisters of the Poor are a 175-year-old order of religious women who care for the elderly poor. More information can be found about the case here: www.thelittlesistersofthepoor.com.

Religious college plaintiffs also weighed in. “This case is about the freedom of all Americans to follow their faith,” said Dr. Blair Blackburn, President of East Texas Baptist University. “At ETBU, we are proud to be part of the long tradition of Baptists in America, just as Roger Williams advocated for religious freedom and separation of church and state in Colonial America and founded Rhode Island and the First Baptist Church in America. We simply ask the Court to recognize that ETBU is a conscientious objector, and that the federal government is insisting that we act as a conscientious collaborator.”

“At HBU, our faith animates everything we do, including our emphasis on academic excellence,” said Dr. Robert Sloan, President of Houston Baptist University. “We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will let us continue to serve our students and others.”

Paul D. Clement of Bancroft, PLLC presented the oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court for the Little Sisters. Noel J. Francisco of Jones Day LLP also presented arguments on behalf of several ministries. The Little Sisters of the Poor are represented by Becket, Locke Lord LLP, and Professor Kevin Walsh of the University of Richmond Law School. Robert Muise of American Freedom Law Center represents plaintiff Priests for Life. David Cortman of Alliance Defending Freedom represents several different religious ministries. A decision from the Supreme Court can be expected in June.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org 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 traditionsand has a 100% win-rate before the United StatesSupreme 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).

 

Nun’s Network to court: Feds have changed their tune

WASHINGTON, D.C.– The world’s largest religious media network asked a federal court today to protect it from having to choose between violating its faith or paying massive fines.

The Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) filed a petition today asking the court to rehear its case in light of new admissions the government made at the Supreme Court in its lawsuit against the Little Sisters of the Poor. In February, a U.S. Court of Appeals lifted its earlier ruling temporarily protecting EWTN and issued a splintered decision against the network. The new decision allowed the government to force EWTN to violate core Catholic teachings by providing services, such as the week after pill, on their employee health plan even though these services can easily be provided by the government.

“The government should have remembered their Mark Twain: telling the truth is easier to remember,” said Lori Windham, senior counsel for Becket, which represents EWTN. “But after years of an at-best distant acquaintance with the truth, the government is getting its stories mixed up. Until recently, the government swore that it didn’t need ministries to do anything but get out of the way. That claim was always ‘rubbish on stilts,’ as one judge put it. And in the crucible of the Supreme Court, the government finally slipped, confessing that its scheme depends on being able to hijack ministries’ health plans.”

EWTN was founded in 1981 by Mother Angelica, a cloistered nun who passed away in March 2016. EWTN began as a small television network in a garage on monastery grounds, and its sole purpose has always been sharing its Catholic faith. Today, EWTN is now the largest religious media organization in the world, reaching into over 265 million television homes in 144 different countries. Yet the government continues insist it can force EWTN to violate the very teachings that drive its mission.

EWTN’s rehearing request shows that the fractured February opinion was built on a foundation that the government has now undermined. Most significantly, the government argued, and the panel accepted, that EWTN simply had to “opt out” of providing services and the government would take it from there. But after a historic Supreme Court order called the government’s bluff, the government admitted that its scheme makes contraceptive coverage “part” of EWTN’s health plan and that it never had any other “mechanism” for making the scheme work another way.

“The government admitted what we have said from the beginning,” said Michael P. Warsaw, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of EWTN. “Once you get past the bureaucratic smokescreen, this really comes down to one issue: the government wants to hijack our health plan. EWTN cannot let them do it.”

Becket is defending EWTN in its fight against the government’s HHS Mandate, which is forcing the network to include services such as the week-after pill in its health care plan. Becket continues to lead the charge against the unconstitutional HHS mandate, winning a landmark victory at the U.S. Supreme Court in  Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. It currently represents the Little Sisters of the Poor,  Houston Baptist and East Texas Baptist Universities, along with many other religious ministries. Kyle Duncan of Schaerr | Duncan LLP also represents EWTN.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org 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).

More Supreme Court briefs filed in the Little Sisters of the Poor case

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today the Little Sisters of the Poor and the government responded further to the Supreme Court’s question of whether there are alternatives to the mandate for religious non-profit ministries. Last week, the ministries responded loud and clear: “Yes.” Today at 4:00 p.m. Becket will hold a press call to discuss the implications of the briefs filed to the U.S. Supreme Court today.

“”Thank goodness for the Supreme Court,”” said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at Becket, which represents the Little Sisters of the Poor. “If the Court had not asked for additional briefs, we would not know that the government actually agrees that there are solutions for providing contraceptives that are more respectful of religious beliefs. If only the government had thought about that five years ago, this litigation would not have been necessary.”

 

Less than a week after the Supreme Court heard the case of the Little Sisters of the Poor, the Court made an almost unprecedented move asking both sides to provide additional arguments about whether the government could find ways to distribute contraceptives without the involvement of religious non-profits and their health plans.Last week, the religious non-profits responded the Supreme Court: “The answer to that question is clear and simple: Yes.”“We are so grateful that the Court asked to hear more about our case,”” said Sister Loraine Marie Maguire, mother provincial for the Little Sisters of the Poor. “We just want to focus on our mission of serving the elderly poor as we have for the last 175 years while being faithful to the teachings of our Church.”

Currently the government exempts 1 in 3 Americans from this regulation. It also exempts large corporations such as Exxon, Visa and even the government’s own Military family plan. A total of 100 million Americans are exempt.

“This case is about the freedom of all Americans to follow their faith,” said Dr. Blair Blackburn, President of East Texas Baptist University. “We simply ask the Court to recognize that ETBU is a conscientious objector, and that the federal government is insisting that we act as a conscientious collaborator.”

“At HBU, our faith animates everything we do, including our emphasis on academic excellence,” said Dr. Robert Sloan, president of Houston Baptist University. “We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will let us continue to serve our students and others.”

For more information, join Becket attorneys on a press call today at 4:00 p.m. EST at 888-670-9385, pin number: 54523. Email questions in advance to: media@becketlaw.org. Last week’s press call audio is available here.

Paul D. Clement of Bancroft, PLLC presented the oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court for the Little Sisters. Noel J. Francisco of Jones Day LLP also presented arguments on behalf of several ministries. The Little Sisters of the Poor are represented by Becket, Locke Lord LLP, and Professor Kevin Walsh of the University of Richmond Law School. Robert Muise of American Freedom Law Center represents plaintiff Priests for Life. David Cortman of Alliance Defending Freedom represents several different religious ministries.

A decision from the Supreme Court can be expected in June.                                                

For more information or to arrange a follow-up interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org 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).

Little Sisters to Court: Government’s existing plans make solution possible

WASHINGTON, D.C.– In a follow-up press call regarding the briefs filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in the Little Sisters of the Poor case (audio here), Becket questions the government for failing to acknowledge the contraceptive-only plans that already exist through Medicaid. In the briefs filed today, the Little Sisters of the Poor and the government responded further to the Supreme Court’s question of whether there are alternatives to the mandate for religious non-profit ministries. The ministries have continued to respond loud and clear: “Yes.”

The following quotes from the press call can be attributed to Mark Rienzi, senior counsel of Becket:

“The federal government already works with state governments to provide contraceptive-only plans through Medicaid. It’s not that the plans can’t and don’t exist. They exist. It’s not that it’s impossible to work with states to do it. The government already works with states to do it. That was discussed in our opening brief.  It’s ignored in the government’s brief today because they don’t have a good answer to it.”

“In every other context the government will tell you the healthcare exchanges are awesome. It’s never really had an explanation why the only people who it won’t let use its exchanges are the people who work for these religious institutions. The bottom line: the government has said alternatives exist. They have to use them.”

“There is a win-win. It’s actually really easy: The government can go do what it needs to do and leave the nuns out of it. And in the end everyone wins because the truth is we are all better off if we live in a world where people like the Little Sisters of the Poor can, inspired by their faith, devote their lives to caring for the elderly poor.”

Paul D. Clement of Bancroft, PLLC presented the oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court for the Little Sisters. Noel J. Francisco of Jones Day LLP also presented arguments on behalf of several ministries. The Little Sisters of the Poor are represented by Becket, Locke Lord LLP, and Professor Kevin Walsh of the University of Richmond Law School. Robert Muise of American Freedom Law Center represents plaintiff Priests for Life. David Cortman of Alliance Defending Freedom represents several different religious ministries.

For more information or to arrange a follow-up interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org 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 traditionsand 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).

Supreme Court asks for additional briefs in Little Sisters case

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Less than a week after it heard the case of the Little Sisters of the Poor, the U.S. Supreme Court took the unusual step of asking for additional information, telling both sides to discuss alternative ways to avoid forcing religious women to provide services against their faith.

“This is an excellent development. Clearly the Supreme Court understood the Sisters’ concern that the government’s current scheme forces them to violate their religion,” said Mark Rienzi, lead attorney for Becket. “We look forward to offering alternatives that protect the Little Sisters’ religious liberty while allowing the government to meet its stated goals.”

The Little Sisters of the Poor, a 175-year-old religious order of women who serve the elderly poor, have asked the Supreme Court for protection from a government mandate that already exempts 1 in 3 Americans, large corporations like Chevron, Exxon, and Pepsi, and the U.S. military. The High Court must decide whether the government can force the Little Sisters of the Poor to comply with this mandate and provide services that violate their faith, even though these same services could easily be offered through the government exchanges.

The Supreme Court today asked both the government and the Little Sisters of the Poor to file additional briefs by next month.

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard the case of the Little Sisters of the Poor and other religious ministries. (Transcript available here). A decision is expected in June.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or 202-349-7224. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

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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).

Becket remembers the life of Mother Angelica

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Becket expresses its condolences to the men and women of EWTN and the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration following the passing of Mother Angelica on Easter.

“Mother Angelica was a shining example of courage and faith,” said Kristina Arriaga, executive director of Becket. “We mourn her loss, but her legacy lives on in EWTN and in the lives of all those she touched.”

In 1981 Mother Angelica founded Eternal Word Television Network to share the teachings of the Catholic faith. Today, EWTN has grown into the world’s largest religious media network, reaching 230 million people in 140 countries via television, radio, and the web. It follows Mother Angelica’s example and mission, proclaiming the Catholic faith in all it does. (Watch video here)

“EWTN is continuing the good work that Mother Angelica started. We are honored to join with our friends at EWTN in continuing the fight for religious freedom,” said Arriaga.

Becket is defending EWTN in its fight against the government’s HHS Mandate, which attempts to force the nun’s network to include services such as the week-after pill in its health care plan. Last month, a federal appeals court ruled against EWTN in a splintered decision, but EWTN is continuing its fight against the mandate. Last week, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a related challenge by the Little Sisters of the Poor, and a decision is expected in that case by June.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or 202-349-7224. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

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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).

BREAKING: Little Sister gives landmark statement following Supreme Court hearing

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Moments ago, the U.S. Supreme Court heard the case of the Little Sisters of the Poor, a 175-year-old religious order of women who care for the elderly poor. The Little Sisters have asked the Supreme Court for protection from a government mandate that is forcing them to provide services against their beliefs.

The following statement can be attributed to Sister Loraine Marie Maguire, Mother Provincial for the Little Sisters of the Poor:

“Hello, my name is Sister Loraine Marie Clare. The Lord has given me a beautiful calling; that of being a Little Sister of the Poor.

We Little Sisters of the Poor are a group of women who make religious vows to God. We dedicate ourselves to serving the elderly poor regardless of race or religion, offering them a home where they are welcomed as Christ, cared for as family and accompanied with dignity until God calls them to Himself.  We have done this for more than 175 years.

But now we find ourselves in a situation where the government is requiring us to include services in our religious health care plan that violate some of our deepest held religious beliefs as Little Sisters.

We don’t understand why the government is doing this when there is an easy solution that doesn’t involve us—it can provide these services on the exchanges.  It’s also hard to understand why the government is doing this when 1/3 of all Americans aren’t even covered by this mandate, and large corporations like Exxon, Visa, and Pepsi are fully exempt, yet the government threatens us with fines of 70 million dollars per year if we don’t comply.

It is a privilege for us to care for the most vulnerable members of our society; serving them, comforting them, being a loving and healing presence in their lives; just being a “Little Sister to them” is our joy.  All we ask, is that we can continue to do this work.

After hearing the argument today, we are hopeful for a positive outcome.  We will continue to trust God because–as our Mother Foundress St. Jeanne Jugan said: “God will help us, the work is His”.

Thank you and God bless.”

For more information about the case, visit www.thelittlesistersofthepoor.com.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket Fund attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketfund.org or 202-349-7224. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

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The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty 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).

Supreme Court hears Little Sisters of the Poor case

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Moments ago, the U.S. Supreme Court heard the case of the Little Sisters of the Poor, a 175-year-old religious order of women who have vowed their lives to care for the elderly poor.

At the hearing, the justices pressed the government with hard questions on why it is trying to force the Sisters to violate their religious beliefs when it has chosen to exempt so many other employers from the mandate. Justice Ginsburg noted that “no one doubts for a moment” the sincerity of the Little Sisters’ beliefs. And other justices expressed concern the government was, in fact, “hijacking” the Little Sisters’ health plan and making them “subsidiz[e] conduct which they believe to be immoral.” Yet the government specifically stated that it not only believes it can force its scheme on the Little Sisters, but also on churches and other houses of worship—making them help provide “seamless” coverage for services like the week-after pill. (Transcript can be found here as soon as it is available.)

“The government has many ways to deliver its services without using the Little Sisters of the Poor—alternatives that it says are as easy to use as shopping on Amazon or Kayak, and which it has already extended to millions of Americans” said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at the Becket and lead Becket attorney for the Little Sisters of the Poor. “Yet the government admitted today that it is forcing the Sisters to violate their sincerely held beliefs. That’s wrong and unnecessary. As Paul Clement said in concluded oral argument today, the Little Sisters are happy to be conscientious objectors, but they can’t agree to be conscientious collaborators.”

The Little Sisters have asked the Supreme Court for protection from a government mandate that already exempts 1 in 3 Americans, large corporations like Chevron, Exxon, and Pepsi, and the U.S. military. The High Court must decide whether the government can force the Little Sisters of the Poor to comply with this mandate and provide services that violate their faith, even though these same services could easily be offered through the government exchanges.

“We don’t understand why the government is doing this when there is an easy solution that doesn’t involve us—it can provide these services on the exchanges,” said Sister Loraine Marie Maguire, Mother Provincial for the Little Sisters of the Poor, in a statement made outside the Court. The full statement is available here, and video can be found here. “It’s also hard to understand why the government is doing this when 1/3 of all Americans aren’t even covered by this mandate, and … yet the government threatens us with fines of 70 million dollars per year if we don’t comply…. All we ask, is that we can continue to do this work.”

The Little Sisters of the Poor have received widespread support in their case from a diverse coalition of religious leaders. As one justice noted at oral argument, the coalition included not only Catholics, Baptists, and Evangelicals, but also “Orthodox Jews, Muslim groups, and an Indian tribe,” who expressed concern that the government’s scheme was “an unprecedented threat to religious liberty.” Other supporters included over 200 Democratic and Republican Members of Congress. More than 40 friend-of-the-court briefs were filed at the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the Little Sisters (view full list).

The Little Sisters of the Poor appealed to the Supreme Court last July, and in November, the Court agreed to take up the appeal. This is the second time the Little Sisters have been forced to ask the Supreme Court for protection from the government’s efforts to make them to provide services against their faith.

The Little Sisters’ case was heard with those of other Becket clients, including Christian Brothers Services, Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust, Houston Baptist and East Texas Baptist Universities, Reaching Souls International, Truett-McConnell College, and GuideStone Financial Services of the Southern Baptist Convention. Other parties also before the Court today included Geneva College, Southern Nazarene University, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington, and the Most Reverend David A. Zubik.

Paul D. Clement of Bancroft, PLLC presented the oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court for the Little Sisters. Noel J. Francisco of Jones Day also presented arguments on behalf of several ministries. The Little Sisters of the Poor are represented by Becket, Locke Lord LLP, and Professor Kevin Walsh of the University of Richmond Law School. A decision from the Supreme Court can be expected in June.

For more information about the case, visit www.thelittlesistersofthepoor.com.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or 202-349-7224. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

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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).

Media Advisory: Little Sister to deliver landmark statement following Supreme Court hearing

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The case of the Little Sisters of the Poor will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court tomorrow March 23 at 10:00 a.m. The Little Sisters are a 175-year-old religious order of women who have vowed their lives to care for the elderly poor. The Little Sisters have asked the Supreme Court for protection from a government mandate that already exempts 1 in 3 Americans, large corporations like Chevron, Exxon, and Pepsi, and the U.S. military. The High Court must decide whether the government can force the Little Sisters of the Poor to comply with this mandate and provide services that violate their faith even though these services can easily be obtained through the government’s own exchanges.

In addition to the Little Sisters of the Poor, the Supreme Court will hear the case of Becket clients Houston Baptist and East Texas Baptist Universities as well as five other religious non-profit groups in Zubik v. Burwell. Becket represents the Little Sisters, as well as the Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust, Christian Brothers Services, Reaching Souls International, Truett-McConnell College, and GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

What:
The Little Sisters of the Poor oral argument
before the U.S. Supreme Court in Zubik v. Burwell

Who:
Sister Loraine Marie Maguire, Mother Provincial for the Little Sisters of the Poor
Paul Clement, Bancroft PLLC

When:
Wednesday March 23, 2016 at 10:00 a.m. EST

Where:
U.S. Supreme Court
1 First St NE, Washington, DC 20543

Sister Loraine Marie Maguire, Mother Provincial for the Little Sisters of the Poor, and Becket attorneys will deliver statements in a press conference outside the Supreme Court immediately following oral argument. For more information about the case, visit www.thelittlesistersofthepoor.com.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket  attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org  or 202-349-7224. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

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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 (learn more).

Media Advisory: What the government got wrong in the Little Sisters of the Poor Supreme Court case

WASHINGTON, D.C. – New evidence highlights the contradictions in the government’s arguments against the Little Sisters of the Poor, who are being forced to comply with a mandate that already exempts 100 million Americans. On Wednesday, the Little Sisters of the Poor will stand before the Supreme Court, which will have to consider why the government refuses to provide a religious exemption from the HHS mandate for the Little Sisters, when 1 in 3 Americans don’t have health plans that must comply with the Mandate. (See the numbers here).

Large corporations – including Exxon, Chevron, and Pepsi – are exempt because they never changed their plans and so are grandfathered. The U.S. military family plan and insurance for the disabled are also exempt from the mandate. These plans get to make their own choices about whether to provide free contraceptives, and can make those decisions based on cost or convenience. Yet the government refuses to give the same right to the Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of Catholic nuns that take religious vows to care for the elderly poor. After promising that the Little Sisters’ religious beliefs would be protected, the government created a new regulation requiring the Little Sisters to change their healthcare plan to offer services that violate their Catholic beliefs.

The government argues that since it has offered to reimburse the costs of the services it wants the Little Sisters to provide, they should have no moral objection to offering them. For the Little Sisters, this is  not about money, but conscience, and whether they should be forced to change their healthcare plan to offer services they morally object to, especially since those services could be provided more effectively through the government’s healthcare exchange.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the Little Sisters’ case on Wednesday, March 23, 2016.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at  media@becketlaw.org  or 202-349-7224. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

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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  (learn more).

Media Advisory: Supreme Court to hear Little Sisters of the Poor case March 23

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The case of the Little Sisters of the Poor will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday March 23 at 10:00 a.m. The Little Sisters are a 175-year-old religious order of women who have vowed their lives to care for the elderly poor. The Little Sisters have asked the Supreme Court for protection from a government mandate that already exempts 1 in 3 Americans, large corporations like Chevron, Exxon, and Pepsi, and the U.S. military. The High Court must decide whether the government can force the Little Sisters of the Poor to comply with this mandate and provide services that violate their faith even though these services can easily be obtained through the government’s own exchanges.

What:

The Little Sisters of the Poor oral argument
before the U.S. Supreme Court in Zubik v. Burwell

Who: 

Sister Loraine Marie Maguire, Mother Provincial for the Little Sisters of the Poor
Paul Clement, Bancroft PLLC

When: 

Wednesday March 23, 2016 at 10:00 a.m. EST

Where:

U.S. Supreme Court
1 First St NE, Washington, DC 20543

Sister Loraine Marie Maguire, Mother Provincial for the Little Sisters of the Poor, and Becket attorneys will deliver statements in a press conference outside the Supreme Court immediately following oral argument. For more information about the case, visit www.thelittlesistersofthepoor.com.

The Supreme Court consolidated the Little Sisters of the Poor case, which includes petitioners Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust and Christian Brothers Services, with the cases of other Becket clients Houston Baptist and East Texas Baptist Universities, Reaching Souls International, Truett-McConnell College, and GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, as well as with the cases of five other religious non-profit groups in Zubik v. Burwell.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket  attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or 202-349-7224. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

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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  (learn more).

Little Sisters poke big holes in Government’s case

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Catholic nuns who care for the elderly poor, filed a brief at the Supreme Court explaining glaring contradictions in the government’s healthcare mandate. Next week, the Court will hear arguments about whether the government can force the Little Sisters to provide services like the week-after pill against their religious beliefs when those same services could be easily obtained through the government’s own exchanges.

“The government already exempts 1 in 3 Americans from this mandate, and it has given big government programs and big companies like Exxon and Visa the freedom to decide not to comply with the mandate, even just for reasons of cost or convenience.” said Sr. Loraine Marie Maguire, mother provincial of the Little Sisters of the Poor. “Protecting our ability to care for the elderly poor ought to be at least as important as helping big business save a few dollars.”

“The government must have been hoping the Justices wouldn’t read their whole brief in one sitting,” said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at Becket and lead counsel for the Little Sisters. “They defend these massive exemptions by saying that the exchanges are great and easy to use. But then they blast the same exchanges as lousy and hard to use for any Little Sisters employee. The brief is going to give the Justices whiplash from trying to keep up with those contradictions.”

“The government has ample ways to distribute these services without us—and their brief says those ways are perfectly fine for the tens of millions of people covered by all the other exemptions it handed out,” explained Sr. Loraine. “I don’t understand why the government can’t just use the same systems and programs it already has in place and leave us Little Sisters to our work of caring for the elderly poor as we have for 175 years.”

The Little Sisters of the Poor have  received widespread support in their case, including from a diverse coalition of religious leaders representing Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Native American, Catholic, Protestant, and other faiths as well as over 200 Democratic and Republican Members of Congress. More than 40 friend-of-the-court briefs were filed at the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the Little Sisters (view full list).

The Little Sisters’ case, along with several other religious ministries, will be heard March 23.  For more information about their case, visit www.thelittlesistersofthepoor.com.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket  attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at  media@becketlaw.org  or 202-349-7224. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

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The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty 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).

The Little Sisters of the Poor tell their stories

WASHINGTON, D.C. – What does it mean to be a Little Sister of the Poor? Their stories are now told in a new video series featuring nine Little Sisters answering a simple question: “What do you love about being a Little Sister of the Poor?” These heartwarming stories of humble service to the elderly poor can be told in nine one-minute videos, available at thelittlesistersofthepoor.com.

In the new video series, nine Little Sisters of the Poor tell their stories:

Originally from India, Sister Georgia says, “As a Little Sister… I can be more joyful, more outgoing, and more of myself. And the residents they see me, they’re very happy, because they forget their sickness.”

The mission of the Little Sisters of the Poor is to, as our foundress St. Jeanne Jugan showed to us, is to really care for everyone with great love and respect,” says Sister Veronica. “Our work is to uphold the value of human life, the dignity of every human person.”

The Little Sisters of the Poor are a group of religious women who have vowed to care for the elderly poor as if they were Christ himself. Currently the Federal Government is trying to force the Little Sisters of the Poor to provide services against their religious beliefs even though these same services could easily be offered through the government exchanges.

The Little Sisters of the Poor have  received widespread support in their case, including from a diverse coalition of religious leaders representing Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Native American, Catholic, Protestant, and other faiths as well as over 200 Democratic and Republican Members of Congress. More than 40 friend-of-the-court briefs were filed at the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the Little Sisters (view full list).

The Little Sisters’ case, along with several other religious ministries in Zubik v. Burwell, will be heard March 23.  For more information about their case, visit www.thelittlesistersofthepoor.com.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket  attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at  media@becketlaw.orgor 202-349-7224. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

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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).

Government exempts 100 million from HHS mandate, but not the Little Sisters

WASHINGTON, D.C. – According to the government’s own statistics, one in three Americans do not have health insurance plans covered by the HHS mandate. HHS has exempted plans for big corporations like Exxon and Pepsi Bottling, huge cities like New York City and the world’s largest employer — the U.S. military — are exempted.

This information and more is detailed in a new website for Little Sisters of the Poor, which has trended on Facebook and become a valuable resource about the case since its launch two weeks ago. The Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of Catholic nuns who care for the elderly poor, have asked the Supreme Court  to protect them from the government mandate forcing them to provide drugs and devices — such as ella and the week after pill — against their Catholic faith.

In a nation of 320 million people, the best the government can claim is that “well over 100 million employees and dependents” are covered by the mandate. Why did they come up short by hundreds of millions of people?  Because the government’s own statistics show that one in three Americans are exempted from the mandate.

In its arguments to the Supreme Court, the government admits that women who are not covered by the mandate can still access contraception through other means, such as on a family member’s plan or through the government’s own insurance exchanges. But it then bizarrely argues that exempting the Little Sisters and letting the nuns’ employees get contraceptives the same way would pose a serious threat to the government’s goal of providing universal free access to contraception and early-term pharmaceutical abortion, thus harming the “harmonious functioning of a society like ours.”  The Little Sisters of the Poor have simply asked to be exempt too, and have suggested the government could better meet its goals if it provided services through the healthcare exchanges for everyone instead of trying to force religious plans to offer these services that violate their beliefs.

It’s the perfect solution. Using the healthcare exchanges, which the government has hailed as an “easy and fast” healthcare option for millions of Americans, would protect both the Little Sisters of the Poor’s religious freedom and the government’s goal to provide free access to these services to women who want them.

The Little Sisters of the Poor have  received widespread support in their case, including from a diverse coalition of religious leaders representing Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Native American, Catholic, Protestant, and other faiths as well as over 200 Democratic and Republican Members of Congress. More than 40 friend-of-the-court briefs were filed at the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the  Little Sisters (view full list). The Little Sisters’ case, along with several other religious ministries, will be heard March 23.

For more information or to arrange an interview with an attorney contact Melinda Skea, director of communications at 202-349-7224 or media@becketlaw.org.

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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).

 

Divided court rules against nun’s network on HHS mandate

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Moments ago, in a splintered decision, a federal court ruled that the world’s largest religious media network, Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), must comply with the government’s infamous HHS Mandate even though the government can offer these same services through its own exchanges. This mandate forces religious ministries like EWTN to violate their faith or pay massive IRS penalties. Recognizing the severity of the situation, the court immediately put its ruling on hold until the Supreme Court address this important issue on March 23 in the Little Sisters of the Poor case.

“We are disappointed in the Court’s refusal to protect our religious freedom,” said EWTN Chairman and CEO Michael P. Warsaw. “We simply want to continue to practice the same faith we preach to the world every day. We are prayerful and hopeful that, if necessary, the Supreme Court will correct this critical error.”

In the majority opinion, the Court stated “We accept the plaintiffs’ sincere belief . . . that the accommodation puts them to a choice between honoring their religious beliefs and facing significant penalties. We nonetheless conclude that the accommodation imposes no substantial burden.”  In a blistering dissent, Judge Tjoflat responded: “the majority runs roughshod over the sincerely held religious objections of Eternal Word Television Network,” and concluded that “At bottom, the majority’s reasoning takes aim at the heart of RFRA itself.”

“This is wrong. Rather than provide these drugs and devices through its own exchanges, our government wants to punish EWTN for practicing its faith.” said Lori Windham, Senior Counsel of Becket and lead attorney on the case. “This 2-1 decision is not the end. The government’s unconstitutional mandate has lost repeatedly at the Supreme Court, and we believe it will lose again.”

Over three decades ago, Mother Angelica, a cloistered nun, started the small television network in a garage on monastery grounds. That network’s sole purpose was and remains sharing Catholic faith and traditions with the world. Today, EWTN is now the largest religious media organization in the world, reaching into over 250 million homes in 144 different countries.

In October 0f 2013, EWTN and the Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange joined with Becket to challenge the unconstitutional HHS Mandate. The 11th Circuit granted EWTN emergency relief in June of 2014 to protect the nun’s network from having to either violate its faith or pay millions of HHS-mandated IRS fines. Today, a different panel of judges rendered a split decision, voting 2-1 against EWTN.

Becket  continues to lead the charge against the unconstitutional HHS mandate, winning a landmark victory at the U.S. Supreme Court in  Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.  It  currently represents  the  Little Sisters of the Poor, Reaching Souls International, and Houston Baptist and East Texas Baptist University,  along with  many other  religious ministries.

In addition to Becket, EWTN is also represented by Kyle Duncan of Duncan PLLC.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or 202-349-7224.Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

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Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including  Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. 

Little Sisters’ Day in Court: March 23rd

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Moments ago the Supreme Court announced it will hear  oral arguments for the Little Sisters of the Poor in the consolidated cases of Zubik v. Burwell  on March 23rd. The High Court, will decide whether the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Catholic nuns who have dedicated their lives to caring for the elderly poor, and other faith-based ministries can be forced to change their healthcare plans to offer drugs that violate their religious beliefs when those same drugs could be made available through healthcare exchanges.

After promising that the Little Sisters’ religious beliefs would be protected, the government created a new regulation requiring the Little Sisters change their healthcare plan to offer drugs that violate Catholic teaching.  One third of U.S. workers are employed by secular companies (e.g., Exxon and Visa) that the government has exempted from having to provide these same drugs in their plans because those employers did not try to update their health plans under ACA and are “grandfathered.”

The Little Sisters of the Poor are represented by Becket. The case will be argued by leading Supreme Court advocate Paul Clement.

What:

Oral Arguments for the Little Sisters of the Poor in Zubik v. Burwell

Who:

Paul Clement, Bancroft PLLC
Senior Counsel Mark Rienzi, Becket
Noel J. Francisco, Jones Day

When:

March 23, 2016

Where:

U.S. Supreme Court, 1 First St NE, Washington, DC 20543

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org  or 202-349-7224. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

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Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including  Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians

Leaders of many faiths ask Supreme Court to protect the Little Sisters of the Poor

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A diverse coalition of religious leaders representing Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Native American, Catholic, Protestant, and other faiths will be joined by over 200 Democratic and Republican Members of Congress in filing friend-of-the-court briefs at the United States Supreme Court today on behalf of the Little Sisters of the Poor (view full list).  The briefs are being filed in Zubik v. Burwell, in which the High Court will decide whether the Little Sisters of the Poor and other ministries can be forced to change their healthcare plans to offer drugs that violate their religious beliefs when those same drugs could be made available through the healthcare exchanges.

“It’s easy to support religious freedom for the majority,” said  Dr. Ossama Bahloul, Imam of The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.  “But the test of America’s commitment to religious diversity and freedom comes when we show we’ll defend minorities and those with whom we do not fully agree.”

“We have great admiration for the Little Sisters who are standing up not just for themselves and the elderly poor they serve but for the rights of all people of faith, including Jews,” said Rabbi Mitchell Rocklin. “Their courage is an example to all of us.” Rabbi Rocklin is a member of the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America.

“We stand with the Little Sisters because America’s proudest moments have come when the many have joined to defend the rights of the few, and we know too well the real cost when our government ignores its promises and puts expediency above principle,” said  Pastor Robert Soto of the Lipan Apache Tribe in Texas.

“We are overjoyed and deeply grateful for the diverse outpouring of support we have received from such a variety of people and groups,” said Sister Loraine Marie Maguire, Mother Provincial for the Little Sisters of the Poor. “We have been serving the elderly poor for over 175 years and are simply asking the government to allow us to continue our life’s work without being forced to choose between our faith and millions in government fines.”

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Melinda Skea at  media@becketlaw.org  or 202-349-7224. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

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Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, includingBuddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians

Little Sisters to Highest Court: Protect Our Ministry

WASHINGTON, D.C. –Moments ago,  the Little Sisters of the Poor,  a  group o f Catholic  nuns who care for the elderly poor, urged the Supreme Court to protect them from $70 million dollars in government fines for refusing to violate their Catholic faith (watch video.) This is the second time the Sisters have been forced to ask the Supreme Court for protection from the government’s efforts to make them to provide contraceptives to their employees. The Supreme Court gave the Sisters preliminary protection in January 2014, and it will hear their case in March of this year.

“The Little Sisters spend their lives taking care of the neediest members of our society —that is work our government should applaud, not punish,” said  Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel of Becket. “ The Little Sisters should not have to fight their own government to get an exemption it has already given  to thousands of other employers, including big companies like Exxon and Pepsi Cola Bottling Company.”

Today’s brief, which was filed by Becket along with former Solicitor General Paul Clement, chides the government for its “deceptive labels and diversionary tactics” designed to falsely suggest that the Little Sisters can “opt out” of the mandate. (See pp. 37-38 explaining how the mandate commandeers the health plans of religious objectors.)

The brief also explains why the government does not need the Little Sisters at all: because it already has many other ways to get contraceptive coverage to those who want it. “Indeed, the government has invested billions of dollars in creating exchanges for the express purpose of making it easy to obtain qualifying insurance when it is not available through an employer.  The government cannot explain why those exchanges suffice to advance its goal of getting contraceptive coverage to the tens of millions of [other] people . . .  yet are not good enough” for the employees of the Little Sisters.

“As Little Sisters of the Poor, we offer the neediest elderly of every race and religion a home where they are welcomed as Christ.  We perform this loving ministry because of our faith and cannot possibly choose between our care for the elderly poor and our faith, and we shouldn’t have to,”  said  Sr. Loraine Marie Maguire, Mother Provincial of the Little Sisters of the Poor. “All we ask is that our rights not be taken away.  The government exempts large corporations, small businesses, and other religious ministries from what they are imposing on us – we just want to keep serving the elderly poor as we have always done for 175 years. We look forward to the Supreme Court hearing our case, and pray for God’s protection of our ministry.”

The brief was filed on behalf of several other entities facing the same mandate as the Little Sisters, including Becket clients Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust, Christian Brothers Services, Reaching Souls International, Truett-McConnell College, and GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, Houston Baptist and East Texas Baptist Universities, along with Westminster Theological Seminary, South Nazarene University, and Geneva College. The religious objectors are also represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, Locke Lord LLP, Professor Kevin Walsh of the University of Richmond, Ken Wynne, and Bradley Tupi. 

“It is ridiculous for the federal government to claim, in this day and age, that it can’t figure out how to distribute contraceptives without involving nuns and their health plans.” said  Senior  Counsel  Mark Rienzi.

Becket continues to lead the charge against the unconstitutional HHS mandate, winning a landmark victory at the U.S. Supreme Court in  Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. It currently represents the  Little Sisters of the Poor, Mother Angelica’s  Eternal Word Television Network,  Houston Baptist and East Texas Baptist Universities, along with  many other religious ministries.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket  attorney, please contact Melinda  Skea  at  media@becketlaw.org  or 202-349-7224.Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

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Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, includingBuddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and  Zoroastrians. Its  recent cases include three major Supreme Court victories: the landmark ruling in  Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 rulings in Holt v. Hobbs  and  Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, the latter of which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

 

 

High Court to decide if Government can force nuns to provide contraceptives

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Moments ago, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take up the case of the Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of Catholic nuns facing tens of millions of dollars in IRS fines because they cannot, according to their faith, include contraceptives in their employee health plan. This is the second time the Sisters have been forced to ask the Supreme Court for protection against the government’s HHS Mandate. The Court’s decision will finally resolve the crucial question of whether governmental agencies can, wholly without legislative oversight, needlessly force religious ministries to violate their faith. The Supreme Court has consolidated their case with Becket client Houston Baptist and East Texas Baptist Universities, Priests for Life, South Nazarene University, Geneva College, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington and Zubik.

“Becket is grateful that the Supreme Court has decided to weigh in on this important case,” said Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel of Becket. “The Little Sisters spend their lives taking care of the elderly poor—that is work our government should applaud, not punish. The Little Sisters should not have to fight their own government to get an exemption it has already given to thousands of other employers, including Exxon, Pepsi Cola Bottling Company, and Boeing. Nor should the government be allowed to say that the Sisters aren’t ‘religious enough’ to merit the exemption that churches and other religious ministries have received.”

The Little Sisters, who care for more than 13,000 of the elderly poor around the world, had no choice but to appeal to the Supreme Court due to the government’s refusal to exempt them from the HHS mandate, which is currently in its 9th unacceptable iteration. The mandate forces the Little Sisters to authorize the government to use the Sister’s employee healthcare plan to provide contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs – a violation of their faith –  or pay massive fines, which would threaten their religious mission. The Supreme Court entered a temporary order protecting the nuns in January, 2014, but the government has continued litigating, asking lower courts to remove that protection.”

“As Little Sisters of the Poor, we offer the neediest elderly of every race and religion a home where they are welcomed as Christ.  We perform this loving ministry because of our faith and cannot possibly choose between our care for the elderly poor and our faith, and we shouldn’t have to,” said  Sr. Loraine Marie Maguire, Mother Provincial of the Little Sisters of the Poor. “All we ask is that our rights not be taken away.  The government exempts large corporations, small businesses, and other religious ministries from what they are imposing on us – we just want to keep serving the elderly poor as we have always done for 175 years. We look forward to the Supreme Court hearing our case, and pray for God’s protection of our ministry.”

Becket and leading Supreme Court advocate Paul Clement—the same legal team that won the Hobby Lobby case—filed the petition on behalf of the Little Sisters, as well as the Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust, Christian Brothers Services, Reaching Souls International, Truett-McConnell College, and GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Today, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the Little Sisters’ case, along with Becket client Houston Baptist and East Texas Baptist Universities, Priests for Life, South Nazarene University, Geneva College, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington and Zubik v. Burwell.“It is ridiculous for the federal government to claim, in this day and age, that it can’t figure out how to distribute contraceptives without involving nuns and their health plans.” said Senior Counsel Mark Rienzi. Becket continues to lead the charge against the unconstitutional HHS mandate, winning a landmark victory at the U.S. Supreme Court in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. It currently represents the Little Sisters of the Poor, Mother Angelica’s Eternal Word Television Network, Houston Baptist and East Texas Baptist Universities, along with many other religious ministries.The Little Sisters are also represented by the law firm of Locke Lord LLP and Professor Kevin Walsh of the University of Richmond Law School.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or 202.349.7224. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

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Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including  Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Its recent cases include three major Supreme Court victories: the landmark ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 rulings in  Holt v. Hobbs  and Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, the latter of which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

 

Media Advisory: Press Conference on Supreme Court Review of Little Sisters Case

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, November 6, 2015 at 2:30 p.m. EST, Mark Rienzi, senior attorney at Becket and lead attorney for the Little Sisters of the Poor, will be hosting a press conference call to discuss the implications of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to review the case of Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwell. Reporters can dial in to join the discussion.

What: Press conference call to discuss the
U.S. Supreme Court review of Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwell

Who:
Host: Mark Rienzi, senior counsel for Becket
Moderator: Melinda Skea, director of communications at Becket

When:
November 6, 2015 at 3:00 p.m. EST

How to Join:
Dial Number: 857-216-5472
PIN: 54523
Email questions to: media@becketlaw.org

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at mskea@becketlaw.org or 202.349.7224. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

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Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including  Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Its recent cases include three major Supreme Court victories: the landmark ruling in  Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 rulings in  Holt v. Hobbs  and  Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, the latter of which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

 

Becket Urges Supreme Court to Hear Little Sisters

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Earlier today, Becket filed a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court, urging it to take up the case of the Little Sisters of the Poor. The brief was filed in response to the Government’s argument, which expressly asked the Court not to choose Little Sisters, an international order of Catholic nuns that provides food, shelter, and healthcare for the elderly poor.

The reply brief stated, “After impermissibly trying to pick and choose which religious groups to exempt from the contraceptive mandate, HHS should not now be allowed to pick and choose its opponent or which questions it must confront in defending its actions.”

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or 202.349.7224.

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Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including  Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Its recent cases include three major Supreme Court victories: the landmark ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 rulings in  Holt v. Hobbs  and  Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, the latter of which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

Federal Gov’t Joins Growing Tide of Judges: SCOTUS Should Hear Mandate Cases

Washington, D.C. – Last night, the federal government finally told the Supreme Court what everyone else been saying for months: the Court should take a case to decide whether the government can force religious ministries to participate in its contraceptive mandate. But in the government’s response to the Little Sisters of the Poor’s Supreme Court petition, it spends much of its time asking the Court not to hear the Little Sisters’ case and instead to hear a different case.

“What is the federal government afraid of?” asked Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel at Becket and lead counsel for the Little Sisters of the Poor. “The government continues to insist that the Little Sisters help with its contraceptive delivery system, but doesn’t want to let them present their side at the Supreme Court. Just a few days ago the President told the Pope he would ‘stand with’ the Pope ‘in defense of religious freedom.’ Forcing nuns to violate their faith for no good reason is a very strange way to do that.” 

The government’s change of heart came the same day as three additional federal judges weighed in to expose the inherent flaws of the government’s mandate scheme. The judges—Judges Edith Jones, Priscilla Owens, and Edith Clement of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit—expressed their view in an opinion dissenting from their circuit’s refusal to reconsider its panel opinion against religious ministries challenging the mandate.

They recognized that other courts have committed “grave error” in accepting the government’s arguments, which boil down to little more than “simply disagree[ing] with the [ministries’] view of what Christian theology demands.” The judges ended with the poignant reminder that “[l]iberty of conscience” was the “foundation” for the “First Amendment’s religion clauses.” “Conscience is the essence of a moral person’s identity. Thomas More went to the scaffold rather than sign a little paper for the King.”

With these judges, there are now opinions from 18 federal appellate judges, including one federal circuit court of appeals, condemning the mandate. This growing tide has recognized the mandate scheme as “clearly and gravely wrong” because “it is not the job of the judiciary to tell people what their religious beliefs are.” Five judges sitting on the court that ruled against the Sisters confidently predicted that the government’s case “will not long survive” because Supreme Court would weigh in and reject a position that is “contrary to all precedent concerning the free exercise of religion.”

And now the government itself has joined the chorus of voices asking the Court to intervene. The government’s new position makes it is even more likely that the Court will choose to take one of the cases. The Court recently took action allowing it to consider all of the mandate petitions at the same time, and some Court-watchers predict it will announce its decision by early to mid November.

Becket and a legal team including former Solicitor General and leading Supreme Court advocate Paul Clement filed the cert petition on behalf of the Little Sisters, their health benefits provider Christian Brothers, and the Baptist ministries GuideStone, Reaching Souls, and Truett-McConnell College.

Becket  continues to lead the charge against the unconstitutional HHS mandate, winning a landmark victory at the U.S. Supreme Court in  Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.  It  currently represents  the  Little Sisters of the Poor, Mother Angelica’s  Eternal Word Television Network,  and Houston Baptist and East Texas Baptist Universities,  along with  many other  religious ministries. Five other petitions challenging the HHS mandate have already been filed at the Supreme Court and more are expected.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket  attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at  media@becketlaw.org  or 202.349.7224.

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Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including  Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Its recent cases include three major Supreme Court victories: the landmark ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 rulings in Holt v. Hobbs  and Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, the latter of which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

Pope Makes Unscheduled Visit to the Little Sisters of the Poor

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Last night Pope Francis made an unscheduled visit with the Little Sisters of the Poor.

The visit, according to Father Federico Lombardi, a papal spokesman, was a “sign of support for them” in their legal fight.

“The Holy Father spoke to each of us individually, from the youngest postulant to our centenarian, and then he spoke to all of us about the importance of our ministry to the elderly,” said Sister Constance Veit, Communications Director of the Little Sisters of the Poor. “We were deeply moved by his encouraging words.”

The Eighth Circuit Gets It Right

by Daniel Blomberg, Legal Counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

Yesterday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit split with seven other U.S. Courts of Appeal, issuing two opinions ruling that the HHS Mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. While the Eighth Circuit was in good company (12 other appellate judges had already come to a similar conclusion, and the vast majority of over two dozen district courts had as well), it is the first circuit to issue a merits ruling that went the right way on this issue. That creates a circuit conflict which will make it even more likely that one of the seven petitions currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court will be taken up in the coming term. Continue reading “The Eighth Circuit Gets It Right”

Federal Court Sets Up Supreme Court Review of HHS Mandate

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today a federal court ruled that the government cannot impose massive IRS fines on religious ministries for following their faith. The ruling, which disagrees with those of other federal courts, drastically increases the likelihood of a Supreme Court review of the HHS Mandate. The Supreme Court will soon decide whether to take up cases involving the Little Sisters of the Poor, Houston Baptist and Texas Baptist Universities, and other religious ministries. Today’s pair of court opinions protects Dordt College, CNS Ministries, and others from having to comply with the HHS mandate.

“Fifteen federal judges now agree that the government has no right to dictate or second guess a person’s sincere religious beliefs,” said Lori Windham, Senior Counsel of Becket. “The government keeps telling the Supreme Court ‘Move along, nothing important here’ in hopes that the Court will ignore this crucial issue. But with today’s decisions, the Court will have great reason to decide this issue in the next term.”

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeal’s opinion stated, “When the government imposes a direct monetary penalty to coerce conduct that violates religious belief, ‘[t]here has never been a question that the government ‘imposes a substantial burden on the exercise of religion.’”

Further, although the government argued that the ministries were being paranoid and that it was simply asking them for signatures on a piece of meaningless paper, the court both refused to second guess the ministries’ beliefs and saw through the government’s argument: “We need look no further than the government’s own litigation behavior to gauge the importance of [the government’s forms] in the regulatory scheme.” If it was just a meaningless form, “there would be no need to insist on [the ministries’] compliance with” the government’s demands.

“The government has many ways to achieve its goals without trampling over religious freedom,” said Senior Counsel Lori Windham. “Today’s decision correctly protects the rights of religious ministries serving the most vulnerable in our society.”

Last week five judges criticized the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling against the Little Sisters of the Poor, predicting the “gravely wrong” decision “will not long survive.” Currently seven petitions involving non-profit ministries now await review by the Supreme Court, including the Little Sisters of the Poor (see video).

Becket continues to lead the charge against the unconstitutional HHS mandate, winning a landmark victory at the U.S. Supreme Court in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. It currently represents the Little Sisters of the Poor, Mother Angelica’s Eternal Word Television Network, and Houston Baptist University, along with many other religious ministries. Seven other petitions challenging the HHS mandate have already been filed at the Supreme Court and more are expected.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or 202.349.7224.

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Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including  Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Its recent cases include three major Supreme Court victories: the landmark ruling in  Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 rulings in  Holt v. Hobbs  and  Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, the latter of which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

Federal Judges Criticize Ruling Against Little Sisters of the Poor

Washington, D.C. – In an almost unprecedented move, five federal judges issued an opinion sharply criticizing their court’s refusal to correct its recent decision that would force the Little Sisters of the Poor to assist the federal government with its contraception distribution scheme.

The opinion calls the decision against the Little Sisters “clearly and gravely wrong—on an issue that has little to do with contraception and a great deal to do with religious liberty.” The five judges took their colleagues to task for refusing to accept the Little Sisters’ sincere beliefs, warning that “it is not the job of the judiciary to tell people what their religious beliefs are.”

“Today’s opinion offers important support to the Little Sisters’ request that the Supreme Court hear their case,” said Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel at Becket and lead counsel for the Little Sisters of the Poor.  “These judges understand that courts and bureaucrats should not be telling nuns what the Catholic faith requires.” (see video).

After a divided three-judge panel ruled against them, the Little Sisters promptly petitioned the Supreme Court to hear their case. Although the Little Sisters had not asked the entire Tenth Circuit to reconsider the panel’s opinion, the Tenth Circuit conducted a vote on its own initiative to determine whether the entire court should re-hear the case. When the court declined, the five judges issued their opinion explaining why the Little Sisters deserve protection.

The opinion further criticizes the decision against the Little Sisters as reflecting a “dangerous approach to religious liberty.” The opinion noted that the reasoning of the court could be used to second-guess the religious beliefs of any faith, including religious minorities like Jews requesting a kosher diet.

But knowing that the Little Sisters and other religious ministries have already asked the Supreme Court to intervene, the five judges explained: “Fortunately, the doctrine of the panel majority will not long survive. It is contrary to all precedent concerning the free exercise of religion.”

Becket and a legal team including former Solicitor General and leading Supreme Court advocate Paul Clement filed the cert petition on behalf of the Little Sisters, their health benefits provider Christian Brothers, and the Baptist ministries GuideStone, Reaching Souls, and Truett-McConnell College.

Becket continues to lead the charge against the unconstitutional HHS mandate, winning a landmark victory at the U.S. Supreme Court in  Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. It currently represents the Little Sisters of the Poor, Mother Angelica’s Eternal Word Television Network, and Houston Baptist University, along with many other religious ministries. Six other petitions challenging the HHS mandate have already been filed at the Supreme Court and more are expected.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or 202.349.7224.

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Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Its recent cases include three major Supreme Court victories: the landmark ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 rulings in  Holt v. Hobbs  and  Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, the latter of which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

20 States, Orthodox Rabbis, and Several Orders of Nuns Ask Supreme Court to Take Contraceptive Mandate Case

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today 20 states, along with a group of Orthodox Jewish Rabbis, five orders of nuns, the flagship seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention, and many other religious and secular organizations, are filing friend-of-the-court briefs at the Supreme Court supporting the Little Sisters of the Poor in their HHS mandate challenge. Last month, the Little Sisters and several other religious ministries appealed to the Supreme Court for relief from the government, which is forcing them to comply with the healthcare mandate in violation of their faith or pay millions in IRS fines (watch video).

“We are deeply grateful for the outpouring of support we have received from such a wide range of people and groups,” said Sister Loraine Marie Maguire, Mother Provincial for the Little Sisters of the Poor. “We simply ask the government to allow us to continue our ministry of caring for the elderly poor as we have for over 175 years without being forced to violate our faith or pay government fines.”

“This strong show of support for the Little Sisters demonstrates just how important it is that the Supreme Court address the impact of the HHS mandate, particularly on religious groups,” said Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel at Becket. “It is especially significant that 20 state governments are supporting the Little Sisters at the Supreme Court.”

In addition to the 20-state amicus brief, briefs are being filed by, among others, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, Dr. Albert Mohler and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the Cato Institute, several law professors, the Judicial Education Project, the Christian Legal Society, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the Christian and Missionary Alliance Foundation, the Alliance Community for Retirement Living, Simpson University, Crown College, and the 181-member Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. Today’s strong support is an indication that the Court is likely to decide in the upcoming term whether religious ministries, like religious for-profits, will receive protection from the Mandate. It also shows the broad importance of the case to a variety of different religious groups and faith traditions.

In January 2014, the Supreme Court issued an emergency order protecting the Little Sisters, but in July 2015 the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals denied relief to the Little Sisters, their health benefits provider Christian Brothers, and the Baptist ministries GuideStone, Reaching Souls, and Truett-McConnell College. Last month, Becket and a legal team including former Solicitor General and leading Supreme Court advocate Paul Clement filed the cert petition on behalf of the religious groups.

“The Supreme Court has already granted interim relief from the HHS Mandate to religious groups five times,” said Rienzi. “The government has exempted thousands of businesses from the HHS Mandate, so why is it needlessly forcing religious institutions, nuns and homeless shelters to carry out its goals? The government already has its own exchanges to do that.”

Becket continues to lead the charge against the unconstitutional HHS mandate, winning a landmark victory at the U.S. Supreme Court in  Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. It currently represents the Little Sisters of the Poor, Mother Angelica’s Eternal Word Television Network, and Colorado Christian University, along with many other religious ministries. Five other petitions challenging the HHS mandate have already been filed at the Supreme Court and more are expected.

In addition to Becket and Paul Clement, the Little Sisters petitioners are also represented by Locke Lord LLP and Kevin Walsh, a law professor at the University of Richmond.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or 202.349.7224.

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Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including  Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Its recent cases include three major Supreme Court victories: the landmark ruling in  Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 rulings in  Holt v. Hobbs  and Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, the latter of which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

Top 5 Things You Need to Know About the New HHS Regulations

Washington, D.C. – The following can be attributed to Lori Windham, Senior Counsel for Becket:

“Under pressure from hundreds of lawsuits, the government continues to retreat.  After three losses in the Supreme Court and dozens of losses in courts below, the government continues to confuse the issues. The government issued over 70 pages of regulations, when all it needed to do was read the First Amendment.  We’ll be reviewing this latest attempt with each of our clients.”

Here are the 5 Things You Need to Know:1. This is the 8th retreat the administration has made from their original stance that only “house[s] of worship” receive religious liberty protection.

  • See chart of dates, times, and summary of each retreat here.
  • Or, in BuzzFeed fashion, it’s like groundhog day, over and over and over again

2. There are a lot of lawsuits against the administration:

  • 102 cases filed including:
    • 28 Religious Universities (More Protestant than Catholic colleges, FYI)
    • 40 Religious Charities
    • 3 Bible Publishers

3. The administration has lost 90% of their cases on this issue – including a decision and two orders from the Supreme Court in Hobby Lobby, Little Sisters, and Wheaton.

4. The religious charities in these cases serve tens of thousands of people, helping the poor and healing the sick. The Little Sisters of the Poor alone serve more than ten thousand people.

5. This is the first time the administration has acknowledged that families do not lose their religious freedom when they open a family business.  None of the previous seven revisions reached family-owned businesses.

Issued earlier today, the following statement can be attributed to Lori Windham, Senior Counsel for Becket:

This is latest step in the administration’s long retreat on the HHS Mandate. It is the eighth time in three years the government has retreated from its original, hard-line stance that only “houses of worship” that hire and serve fellow believers deserve religious freedom.

We look forward to reviewing the new rule and its implications for the 102 cases, including religious charities like Little Sisters of the Poor (see video), Mother Angelica’s Eternal Word Television Network (see video), and religious colleges like Colorado Christian University.  Ninety percent of religious ministries challenging the mandate have received relief from the courts, and we are hopeful the administration’s new rule will reflect the robust protections that have always been given to religious individuals in this country.

Religious ministries in these cases serve tens of thousands of Americans, helping the poor and homeless and healing the sick. The Little Sisters of the Poor alone serve more than ten thousand of the elderly poor. These charities want to continue following their faith. They want to focus on ministry—such as sharing their faith and serving the poor—without worrying about the threat of massive IRS penalties.

Becket has led the charge against the unconstitutional HHS mandate, winning a landmark victory at the U.S. Supreme Court in  Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. It currently represents the Little Sisters of the Poor, Mother Angelica’s Eternal Word Television Network, and Colorado Christian University, along with many other religious ministries. Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Its recent cases include two major Supreme Court victories: the landmark ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 ruling in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact  Melinda Skea, media@becketlaw.org, 202.349.7224.

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Little Sisters Receive Short-term Shelter from HHS Mandate

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Just this morning, the Tenth Circuit issued an order temporarily safeguarding the Little Sisters of the Poor and other ministries from being forced to violate their faith. The court’s order means that the protection that the Supreme Court granted the Little Sisters last year will remain in place until the Supreme Court rules on their case (see video).

The following statement can be attributed to Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel of Becket, which represents the Little Sisters of the Poor:

The federal government doesn’t need the Little Sisters or any other ministry to help it distribute abortion-inducing drugs and other contraceptives. Yet it not only insists on forcing them to participate in the delivery, it argues that their beliefs against participating are wrong and that government officials and judges can tell the Little Sisters what Catholic theology really requires. That’s wrong, and it’s dangerous — especially when those same government officials have disrespectfully compared the Sisters’ beliefs to ‘fighting an invisible dragon’ that can be vanquished with the ‘stroke of the [Sisters’] own pen.’

The Little Sisters of the Poor, along with Reaching Souls International and several other ministries, have asked the Supreme Court to take their case and give them long-term relief from the government’s mandate. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on that petition, along with several others, this fall.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or 202.349.7224.

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Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including  Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Its recent cases include three major Supreme Court victories: the landmark ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 rulings in  Holt v. Hobbs and  Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, the latter of which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

16 States, Religious Groups Ask Supreme Court to Take Contraceptive Mandate Case

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today 16 states, along with several religious groups, are filing friend-of-the-court briefs at the Supreme Court supporting Houston Baptist University (HBU), East Texas Baptist University (ETBU), and Westminster Theological Seminary in their HHS mandate challenge. Last month, the three religious groups appealed to the Supreme Court for relief from the government, which is forcing them to comply with the healthcare mandate in violation of their faith or pay millions in IRS fines.

“This strong show of support for HBU and ETBU demonstrates just how important it is that the Supreme Court address the impact of the HHS mandate, particularly on religious groups,” said Diana Verm, Legal Counsel at Becket. “It is especially significant that 16 state governments are supporting HBU and ETBU at the Supreme Court.”

In addition to the 16-state amicus brief, briefs are being filed by, among others, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Christian and Missionary Alliance Foundation, the Alliance Community for Retirement Living, Simpson University, Crown College, and the 181-member Council of Christian Colleges and Universities. Today’s strong support is an indication that the Court is likely to decide in the upcoming term whether religious ministries, like religious for-profits, will receive protection from the Mandate.

In December 2013 a Houston federal court ruled in favor of the schools, yet in June 2015 the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals denied relief to HBU, ETBU, and Westminster. Westminster is separately represented by Ken Wynne of Wynne & Wynne LLP in Houston. Last month, Becket and former Solicitor General and leading Supreme Court advocate Paul Clement filed the cert petition on behalf of the three religious groups.

“The Supreme Court has already granted interim relief from the HHS Mandate to religious groups five times,” said Verm. “The government has exempted thousands of businesses from the HHS Mandate, so why is it needlessly forcing religious institutions, nuns and homeless shelters to carry out its goals? Isn’t that what its own exchanges are meant to do?”

Becket continues to lead the charge against the unconstitutional HHS mandate, winning a landmark victory at the U.S. Supreme Court in  Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. It currently represents the Little Sisters of the Poor, Mother Angelica’s Eternal Word Television Network, and Colorado Christian University, along with many other religious ministries. Five other petitions challenging the HHS mandate have already been filed at the Supreme Court and more are expected.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or 202.349.7226.

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Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Its recent cases include three major Supreme Court victories: the landmark ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 rulings in Holt v. Hobbs and  Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, the latter of which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

Little Sisters of the Poor Appeal to the Supreme Court

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, for the second time in two years, the Little Sisters of the Poor must ask the Supreme Court to protect them from the government. The order of Catholic nuns and other non-profits have been forced to ask the Court for relief due to the government’s refusal to exempt them from a regulation that makes them choose between their faith—which prohibits them from providing contraceptives—and continuing to pursue their religious mission of serving the elderly poor (see video).

“The government has lost every single time they have made these arguments before the Supreme Court—including last year’s landmark Hobby Lobby case. One would think they would get the message and stop pressuring the Sisters,” said Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel at Becket. “The government is willing to exempt big companies like Exxon, Chevron, and Pepsi Bottling, but it won’t leave the Little Sisters alone.”

Becket and leading Supreme Court advocate Paul Clement—the same legal team that won Hobby Lobby—filed the petition on behalf of the Little Sisters as well as the Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust, Christian Brothers Services, Reaching Souls International, Truett-McConnell College, and GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. They are seeking relief from a 100-page decision by the Tenth Circuit that disagrees with the ministries’ understanding of moral theology. Today’s petition is the fifth the Court has received and makes it likely the Court will decide in the upcoming term whether religious ministries, like religious for-profits, will receive protection from the Mandate.

“The Sisters consider it immoral to help the government distribute these drugs. But instead of simply exempting them, the government insists that it can take over their ministry’s employee healthcare to distribute these drugs to their employees, while dismissing the Sisters’ moral objections as irrelevant,” said Rienzi. “In America, judges and government bureaucrats have no authority to tell the Little Sisters what is moral or immoral. And the government can distribute its drugs without nuns—it has its own healthcare exchanges that can provide whatever it wants.”

“As Little Sisters of the Poor we dedicate our lives to serving the neediest in society, with love and dignity. We perform this loving ministry because of our faith and simply cannot choose between our care for the elderly poor and our faith, and we shouldn’t have to,” said Sr. Loraine Marie Maguire, Mother Provincial of the Little Sisters of the Poor. “We hope the Supreme Court will hear our case and ensure that people from diverse faiths can freely follow God’s calling in their lives.”

Reaching Souls International is an evangelical Christian ministry dedicated to preaching the gospel and caring for orphans in Africa, Cuba and India. Truett-McConnell College is a Baptist college that trains students to share their faith worldwide. Christian Brothers Services, Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust, and GuideStone Financial Resources are the ministries that provide healthcare coverage for the Little Sisters, Reaching Souls, and Truett-McConnell. All of the ministries are also represented by Locke Lord LLP, the 2014 recipient of Becket’s legal service award. Kevin Walsh, a law professor at the University of Richmond Law School, also represents the Little Sisters of the Poor.

The Court is likely to consider all of the petitions in late September or early October. If the petition is granted, the case would be argued and decided before the end of the Court’s term in June 2016.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket  attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at  media@becketlaw.org  or 202.349.7226.

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Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including  Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Its recent cases include three major Supreme Court victories: the landmark ruling in  Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 rulings in  Holt v. Hobbs and  Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, the latter of which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.

Court rules against Evangelical ministry

Washington, D.C. – Moments ago, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Reaching Souls International must comply with the government’s HHS mandate, which forces religious ministries to violate their faith or pay massive IRS penalties.

The following statement can be attributed to Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel at Becket and lead attorney for Reaching Souls International:

We’re disappointed with today’s decision, which leaves in place the federal government’s aggressive, discriminatory, and unnecessary attack on the core religious beliefs of private religious ministries.  The government does not need to take over a church benefits plan to provide abortion-inducing drugs–the most powerful government in the world can obviously distribute drugs without hijacking religious institutions and their health plans.

Today the Tenth Circuit ruled that government can force Reaching Souls to choose to either violate their faith or pay massive IRS penalties. The court held that participating in the government’s contraception delivery scheme is “as easy as obtaining a parade permit, filing a simple tax for, or registering to vote” and that although Reaching Souls sincerely believes that participating in the scheme “make[s] them complicit in the overall delivery scheme,” the court “ultimately rejects the merits of this claim” because the court believes the scheme “relieves [Reaching Souls] from complicity.” 

Reaching Souls and their attorneys are closely reviewing the court’s decision and will decide soon whether they must seek relief from the Supreme Court.

Reaching Souls has rescued hundreds of orphans in Africa by placing them into loving homes. Founded by a Southern Baptist pastor and evangelist in 1986, Reaching Souls’ mission is “to reach Souls for Christ” by training, equipping, and supporting African, Cuban, and Indian pastors and evangelists as they preach the Gospel to their neighbors and countrymen. Through their dedicated preaching, pastors and evangelists trained and supported by Reaching Souls have reached out to over 20 million people in Africa, Cuba, and India.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at  media@becketlaw.org or 202.349.7224. 

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Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Its recent cases include three major Supreme Court victories: the landmark ruling in  Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 rulings in  Holt v. Hobbs  and  Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, the latter of which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

Court rules against Little Sisters of the Poor

Washington, D.C. – Moments ago, in a departure from the U.S. Supreme Court’s protection of the Little Sisters of the Poor last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled that the Little Sisters must comply with the government’s HHS mandate. This mandate forces religious ministries to violate their faith or pay massive IRS penalties (see video).

The following statement can be attributed to  Sr. Loraine Marie Maguire, Mother Provincial of the Little Sisters of the Poor:

As Little Sisters of the Poor, we simply cannot choose between our care for the elderly poor and our faith. And we should not have to make that choice, because it violates our nation’s commitment to ensuring that people from diverse faiths can freely follow God’s calling in their lives. For over 175 years, we have served the neediest in society with love and dignity. All we ask is to be able to continue our religious vocation free from government intrusion.

The following statement can be attributed to Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel of Becket and lead attorney for the Little Sisters of the Poor:

We’re disappointed with today’s decision. After losing repeatedly at the Supreme Court, the government continues its unrelenting pursuit of the Little Sisters of the Poor. It is a national embarrassment that the world’s most powerful government insists that, instead of providing contraceptives through its own existing exchanges and programs, it must crush the Little Sisters’ faith and force them to participate. Untold millions of people have managed to get contraceptives without involving nuns, and there is no reason the government cannot run its programs without hijacking the Little Sisters and their health plan.

The Tenth Circuit heard oral argument in this case December of last year, when for the first time since the case began, Sr. Loraine Marie Maguire, Mother Provincial of the Little Sisters of the Poor, delivered a public statement on the case (see statement here). 

Today the Tenth Circuit ruled that government can force the Little Sisters to either violate their faith or pay massive IRS penalties. The court held that participating in the government’s contraception delivery scheme is “as easy as obtaining a parade permit, filing a simple tax for, or registering to vote” and that although the Sisters sincerely believe that participating in the scheme “make[s] them complicit in the overall delivery scheme,” the court “ultimately rejects the merits of this claim,” because the court believes the scheme “relieves [the Little Sisters] from complicity.”

The Little Sisters and their attorneys are closely reviewing the court’s decision and will decide soon whether they must seek relief from the Supreme Court.

“We will keep on fighting for the Little Sisters, even if that means having to go all the way to the Supreme Court,” said Daniel Blomberg, Counsel at Becket.

The Court’s order similarly harms Christian Brothers Services and Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust, the Catholic ministries through which the Little Sisters obtain their health coverage.

All three ministries are also represented by Locke Lord LLP, the 2014 recipient of Becket’s legal service award. Kevin Walsh, a law professor at the University of Richmond Law School, also represents the Little Sisters of the Poor.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or 202.349.7224. 

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The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including  Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Its recent cases include three major Supreme Court victories: the landmark ruling in  Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 rulings in  Holt v. Hobbs  and  Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, the latter of which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

Administration Issues Final Contraceptive Mandate Rules In Defiance of Supreme Court

Washington, D.C. – Today the Department of Health and Human Services announced that—despite losing repeatedly at the U.S. Supreme Court—it would continue trying to force religious nonprofits like the Little Sisters of the Poor to help distribute contraceptives, including the “week-after pill.”

Today’s announcement comes after multiple losses in contraceptive mandate cases at the Supreme Court, including last year’s Hobby Lobby decision and Court decisions regarding the Little Sisters of the Poor and Wheaton College. In fact, just last week the Supreme Court ordered the government not to enforce this rule against Catholic organizations from Pennsylvania, marking the government’s sixth loss in a row at the Supreme Court regarding the mandate. There are now four petitions before the Supreme Court asking the Court to finally resolve the issue by June 2016.

“The government keeps digging the hole deeper,” said Adèle Auxier Keim, Legal Counsel at Becket. “Just last week the Supreme Court ordered HHS not to enforce the exact rules they finalized today. But the government still won’t give up on its quest to force nuns and other religious employers to distribute contraceptives. Especially after the Supreme Court’s recent King v. Burwell decision allowed the government to expand its healthcare exchanges, there is no reason at all the government needs religious employers to help it distribute these products.”

The government proposed similar rules in August 2014, but many observers believed it might change position after repeated losses on the mandate issue at the Supreme Court. However, the government forged ahead and finalized rules requiring non-profit employers to help it distribute contraceptive drugs and devices.

“The government has already told thousands of businesses that they don’t need to comply with the HHS Mandate at all,” said Keim. “So why is it continuing to go out of its way to force religious objectors, from nuns to business owners, to do something it is more than capable of doing itself?

Becket continues to lead the charge against the unconstitutional HHS mandate,  winning a landmark victory at the U.S. Supreme Court in  Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.  It  currently represents  the  Little Sisters of the Poor, Mother Angelica’s  Eternal Word Television Network,  and  Colorado Christian University,  along with  many other  religious ministries. On Wednesday Becket filed a cert petition at the Supreme Court in the Houston Baptist University case.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket  attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at  media@becketlaw.org or 202.349.7224.

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Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including 
Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Its recent cases include three major Supreme Court victories: the landmark ruling in  Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 rulings in  Holt v. Hobbs  and Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, the latter of which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

Three Religious Institutions Appeal to Supreme Court, Say They Will Fight to Protect Their Faith

Washington, D.C. – Today two private universities and a seminary are asking the Supreme Court to protect them from millions of dollars in IRS fines that will be triggered if they refuse to comply with the infamous HHS mandate. Filing the petition today are the same two firms that won the Hobby Lobby case against the government’s HHS mandate one year ago.

Becket and former Solicitor General and leading Supreme Court advocate Paul Clement are filing the petition on behalf of Houston Baptist University, East Texas Baptist University and Pennsylvania-based Westminster Theological Seminary. The Supreme Court has already granted interim relief from the HHS Mandate to religious groups five times. The schools’ appeal makes it highly likely that the Court will decide whether religious universities will be required to provide contraceptive coverage in violation of their faith in the upcoming term.

“The government has already told thousands of businesses they don’t need to comply with the HHS Mandate,” said Diana Verm, Legal Counsel at Becket. “So why is it bullying nuns, religious schools, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters unless they comply? It makes no sense.”

In December 2013 a Houston federal court ruled in favor of the schools, yet last month the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals denied relief to Houston Baptist and East Texas Baptist Universities, and Westminster. Westminster is separately represented by Ken Wynne of Wynne & Wynne LLP in Houston.

“We didn’t go looking for this fight,” said Dr. Robert Sloan, President of Houston Baptist University. “But here we stand and can do no other. We cannot help the government or anyone else provide potentially life-threatening drugs and devices. The government has many other ways to achieve its goals without involving us. It ought to pick one of those and let us go back to educating our students.”

Becket continues to lead the charge against the unconstitutional HHS mandate, winning a landmark victory at the U.S. Supreme Court in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. It currently represents the Little Sisters of the Poor, Mother Angelica’s Eternal Word Television Network, and Colorado Christian University, along with many other religious ministries. Three other petitions challenging the HHS mandate have already been filed at the Supreme Court and more are expected.

“The Supreme Court should step in and tell the federal government that separation of church and state is a two-way street,” said Verm. “The state should not be able to take over parts of the church—including these religious ministries—just so it has an easier way of distributing life terminating drugs.”

The Court is likely to consider all of the petitions in late September or early October. If the petition is granted, the case would be argued and decided before the end of the Court’s term in June 2016.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or 202.349.7224.

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Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including  Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Its recent cases include three major Supreme Court victories: the landmark ruling in  Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 rulings in  Holt v. Hobbs  and  Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, the latter of which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

Supreme Court Protects Religious Charities from Government Mandate

Washington, D.C. – Moments ago, after previously blocking the federal government’s HHS mandate for the sixth time in a row, the Supreme Court granted relief in the Zubik v. Burwell case to a group of Pennsylvania-based religious organizations, including Catholic Charities and other social service organizations.

“This is the sixth time the HHS mandate has been before the Supreme Court, and the sixth time it has lost,” said Eric Rassbach, Deputy General Counsel of Becket. “Doesn’t our government have something better to do than fight charities serving the poor?”

Last month Justice Alito issued an interim order, protecting the charities and churches from complying with the HHS Mandate while their case continued. This was similar to the preliminary order Justice Sotomayor provided to the Little Sisters of the Poor on New Year’s Eve in 2013. The Pennsylvania-based religious organizations join over 750 plaintiffs in other nonprofit cases that have been granted protection from the unconstitutional HHS mandate, which forces religious ministries to either violate their faith or pay massive IRS penalties. In the order, handed down today, “[T]he respondents are enjoined from enforcing against the applicants the challenged provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and related regulations pending final disposition of their petition for certiorari.”

“The government has lots of ways to achieve its goals without penalizing religious groups who serve those in need,” said Deputy General Counsel Eric Rassbach. “Every time a religious ministry has taken this issue to the Supreme Court, the government has lost and the religious plaintiffs have been granted relief.”

The Supreme Court has previously granted relief to the following religious objectors to the mandate: Little Sisters of the Poor (December 2013 and January 2014); Hobby Lobby (June 2014); Wheaton College (July 2014); University of Notre Dame (March 2015); Michigan Catholic Conference (April 2015), and one previous order in this case (April 2015).

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or 202.349.7224.

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Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Its recent cases include three major Supreme Court victories: the landmark ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 rulings in Holt v. Hobbs and Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, the latter of which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

Supreme Court Protects Religious Ministries For 6th Time From IRS Fines

Washington, D.C. – Moments ago, for the sixth time in a row, the Supreme Court took steps to protect another religious objector from the contraceptive mandate. It ordered a lower court to reconsider its ruling that denied a group of Catholic ministries in Michigan the freedom to follow their faith.  

“The government keeps making the same bad arguments and the Supreme Court keeps rejecting them — every single time. This is because the government can obviously come up with ways to distribute contraceptives without the forced involvement of Catholic ministries,” said Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel of Becket, which filed an amicus brief in the case. “As with the Supreme Court’s decisions in Little Sisters of the Poor and Hobby Lobby, this is a strong signal that the Supreme Court will ultimately reject the government’s narrow view of religious liberty. And it makes it less likely that lower courts will accept arguments the Supreme Court has rejected over and over and over again.” 

The Michigan Catholic Conference and other Catholic ministries brought their request to the Supreme Court after a surprising lower court decision that would have allowed large IRS fines against the ministries because they, based on their religious beliefs, cannot provide contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs in their employee health plans. The federal government has relied heavily on that decision in courts around the country, arguing that it should be able to impose similar burdens on religious ministries like the Little Sisters of the Poor. 

Over 750 plaintiffs in the other nonprofit cases have been granted protection from the unconstitutional mandate, which forces religious ministries to either violate their faith or pay massive IRS penalties.   

The Supreme Court has previously granted relief to the following religious objectors to the mandate: Little Sisters of the Poor (December 2013 and January 2014); Hobby Lobby (June 2014); Wheaton College (July 2014); University of Notre Dame (March 2015); Archbishop Zubik and the Diocese of Pittsburgh (April 2015).  

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at  media@becketlaw.org or 202.349.7224. 

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, includingBuddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Its recent cases include three major Supreme Court victories: the landmark ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 rulings in Holt v. Hobbs and  Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, the latter of which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.” 

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or 202.349.7224. 

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The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Its recent cases include three major Supreme Court victories: the landmark ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 rulings in Holt v. Hobbs and Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, the latter of which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

Supreme Court Stops Government Mandate for Fifth Time in a Row

Washington, D.C. – For the fifth time in a row, the Supreme Court has stopped the federal government’s contraceptive mandate. In an order issued last night, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito prevented the federal government from enforcing its contraceptive mandate against a range of Pennsylvania-based religious organizations including Catholic Charities and other Catholic schools and social service organizations connected with the Diocese of Erie and the Diocese of Pittsburgh. The Supreme Court has previously protected the Little Sisters of the Poor, Hobby Lobby, Wheaton College, and the University of Notre Dame. Justice Alito’s order is similar to the preliminary order Justice Sotomayor provided to the Little Sisters of the Poor on New Year’s Eve in 2013.

The order requires the government to brief the Supreme Court next week on why it should be allowed to fine these organizations for refusing to distribute abortion-inducing drugs and devices and other contraceptives. Lori Windham, Senior Counsel for Becket (which represents the Little Sisters of the Poor and several other clients challenging the mandate) issued the following statement:

How many times must the government lose in court before it gets the message? For years now the government has been claiming that places like Catholic Charities and the Little Sisters of the Poor are not “religious employers” worthy of an exemption. That argument has always been absurd. Every time a religious plaintiff has gone to the Supreme Court for protection from the government’s discriminatory mandate the Court has protected them. That’s what happened to the Little Sisters of the Poor, Wheaton College, Notre Dame, and Hobby Lobby. The government really needs to give up on its illegal and unnecessary mandate. The federal bureaucracy has lots of options for distributing contraceptives–they don’t need to coerce nuns and priests to do it for them.

The Supreme Court will be considering a similar case involving an order of Nashville Dominican nuns and several Tennessee — and Michigan –based Catholic charities at a conference of the Justices on April 24.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea atmedia@becketlaw.org or 202.349.7224.

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Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Its recent cases include three major Supreme Court victories: the landmark ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 rulings in Holt v. Hobbs and Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, the latter of which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

Court hears Texas Baptist universities’ HHS challenge

Washington, D.C. – Moments ago, two Texas Baptist universities were heard in court over their religious objection to the HHS Mandate. The universities won a victory at the district court in December 2013 from which the government now appeals.

East Texas Baptist University and Houston Baptist University hold their faith as central to their educational missions and so are challenging the government’s HHS Mandate, which forces them to violate their deeply held religious beliefs or pay outlandish IRS fines. Today their hearing took place at the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Houston.

“The government has completely exempted most employers from the Mandate for economic or political reasons,” said Diana Verm, Legal Counsel for Becket. “But it refuses to exempt religious ministries like East Texas Baptist and Houston Baptist. The government is using East Texas Baptist and Houston Baptist’s health plans to deliver drugs and devices they object to. That’s a violation of their religious liberty and the law.”

East Texas Baptist and Houston Baptist are committed to Christian principles, including respect for the sanctity of human life. That is why in 2012, the two Baptist colleges first joined Becket in challenging the HHS Mandate, which is forcing them to violate the very teachings that guide their ministries.

“Baptists were some of the first religious believers to make use of religious liberty laws in this nation. The government still hasn’t learned that it can’t coerce groups like East Texas Baptist and Houston Baptist to violate their faith.” said Verm.

Becket has led the charge against the unconstitutional HHS mandate, winning a landmark victory at the U.S. Supreme Court in  Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. It currently represents the Little Sisters of the Poor, Mother Angelica’s Eternal Word Television Network, and Colorado Christian University, along with many other religious ministries.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or 202.349.7226.

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Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Its recent cases include three major Supreme Court victories: the landmark ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 rulings in Holt v. Hobbs and Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, the latter of which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

Media Advisory: Court will hear Texas Baptist universities’ HHS challenge on April 7th

Washington, D.C. – Becket will represent East Texas Baptist University and Houston Baptist University in oral argument at the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Houston on April 7th. Both liberal arts colleges hold their faith as central to their educational missions and so are challenging the government’s HHS Mandate, which forces them to violate their deeply held religious beliefs or pay outlandish IRS fines. The universities already won a victory at the district court in December 2013, and tomorrow, the Fifth Circuit will hear the government’s appeal of that decision.

Who:
Eric Rassbach, Deputy General Counsel for Becket

What:
East Texas Baptist University and Houston Baptist University oral argument before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

When:
April 7, 2015 at 9:00 a.m.

Where:
United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
515 Rusk Street
Houston, TX 77002

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or 202.349.7224.

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Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Its recent cases include three major Supreme Court victories: the landmark ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 rulings in Holt v. Hobbs and Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, the latter of which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

Why you shouldn’t be asking “Can I shop at Hobby Lobby?”

by Mark Rienzi Senior Counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

The Green family of Hobby Lobby
The Green family won their case at the Supreme Court in June 2014.

A new complicity argument from opponents of religious liberty?

Well, here’s something I didn’t expect to read about in the New York Times.

You may recall that the Times strongly opposed the efforts by the Green family (who own Hobby Lobby) to avoid paying for abortion-inducing drugs. Hobby Lobby employees, of course, are free to spend their money on these drugs (or anything else) if they want to. But the Greens did not want to be complicit in abortion and therefore asked not to pay for the drugs. The Times derided the Greens’ effort to step aside as trying to “impose their religious views on employees.” Continue reading “Why you shouldn’t be asking “Can I shop at Hobby Lobby?””

Supreme Court to lower court: Reconsider decision against Notre Dame

Washington, D.C. – Moments ago, the Supreme Court ordered a lower court to reconsider its ruling that denied a Catholic university the freedom to follow its faith.    

The University of Notre Dame brought its request to the Supreme Court after a surprising lower court decision that made it the only nonprofit religious ministry in the nation without protection from the HHS mandate. The federal government has relied heavily on that decision in courts around the country, arguing that it should be able to impose similar burdens on religious ministries like the Little Sisters of the Poor.

Today, the Supreme Court vacated the Notre Dame decision entirely, and sent the case back to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider its aberrant ruling in light of the recent ruling in Hobby Lobby protecting religious freedom.

“This is a major blow to the federal government’s contraception mandate. For the past year, the Notre Dame decision has been the centerpiece of the government’s effort to force religious ministries to violate their beliefs or pay fines to the IRS.” said Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel of Becket, which filed an amicus brief in the case. “As with the Supreme Court’s decisions in Little Sisters of the Poor and Hobby Lobby, this is a strong signal that the Supreme Court will ultimately reject the government’s narrow view of religious liberty. The government fought hard to prevent this GVR, but the Supreme Court rejected their arguments.”

Over 750 plaintiffs in the other nonprofit cases have been granted protection from the unconstitutional mandate, which forces religious ministries to either violate their faith or pay massive IRS penalties.

The University’s pursuit of higher education is defined by its religious convictions. Its mission statement reads: “A Catholic university draws its basic inspiration from Jesus Christ as the source of wisdom and from the conviction that in him all things can be brought to their completion.” Its fight to stay true to its beliefs has brought it all the way to the Supreme Court – and back to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or 202.349.7224.

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Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including  Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Its recent cases include three major Supreme Court victories: the landmark ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 rulings in Holt v. Hobbs and Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, the latter of which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

Justices Revive Birth-Control Insurance Challenge

National Law Journal, March 9, 2015

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents a number of nonprofit religious organizations challenging the contraceptive requirement, hailed the high court’s action as a “major blow” to the government’s defense of the coverage requirement.

“For the past year, the Notre Dame decision has been the centerpiece of the government’s effort to force religious ministries to violate their beliefs or pay fines to the IRS,” said Becket senior counsel Mark Rienzi, who filed an amicus brief in the Notre Dame case. “As with the Supreme Court’s decisions in Little Sisters of the Poor and Hobby Lobby, this is a strong signal that the Supreme Court will ultimately reject the government’s narrow view of religious liberty.”

Court hears Nun’s Network’s religious freedom case

Washington, D.C. – Minutes ago, Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), the global Catholic television network founded by a cloistered nun, had its religious freedom case heard in court. (see video).

“The government is threatening a religious ministry with millions of dollars in fines for following its faith,” said Lori Windham, Senior Counsel of Becket and lead attorney for EWTN. “Eternal Word Television Network spends all day every day expressing its Catholic beliefs worldwide in TV, radio, and print; it hosts daily masses at a shrine on its grounds, which are held by monks that live there. Yet the government says EWTN is not religious enough to have the freedom to practice what it preaches. That’s wrong.”

EWTN, the world’s largest religious media network, is challenging the government’s HHS mandate, which is forcing the Catholic network to violate its deeply held religious convictions or pay crippling IRS fines. Last July, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals granted emergency protection to EWTN. Today, the Court heard oral argument in this case because the government wants to remove that protection.

“From its beginning, EWTN has been dedicated to proclaiming and living out our Catholic faith,” said EWTN Chairman and CEO Michael P. Warsaw. “We are encouraged by today’s hearing and hopeful that the court will protect EWTN’s religious freedom and allow us to continue to practice what we broadcast to the world every day.”

Almost 34 years ago, Mother Angelica, a cloistered nun, founded a small television network in her monastery garage with a mission to spread the teachings of her Catholic faith. Today, EWTN has become the largest religious media network in the world, transmitting programming 24 hours a day to televisions in more than 238 million homes in more than 140 countries and territories. EWTN is also a religious shrine and pilgrimage site for millions of Catholics seeking daily Mass and worship. A Catholic network whose sole purpose is to spread the word of God, EWTN must fight for the right to remain faithful to the very Catholic message it advances.

“Religious ministries have been winning these challenges overwhelmingly. Most courts understand that the government can’t fine you for living your faith,” said Windham.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or 202.349.7224.

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Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, includingBuddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Its recent cases include three major Supreme Court victories: the landmark ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 rulings in Holt v. Hobbs and Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, the latter of which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

Obama Admin. Targets Nuns over HHS Mandate

CBN News February 4, 2015

The nuns run the Eternal Word Television Network, EWTN. Their case goes before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday.

They object to the Health and Human Services contraception mandate in Obamacare, which would force them to provide health insurance for drugs that may cause abortions.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is representing the nuns in the case.

Read the full article here.

Nun’s Network fights for religious freedom from HHS mandate

Washington, D.C. – Founded by cloistered nuns, Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN)’s religious freedom case will be heard on February 4th (see video). Becket represents EWTN, which is being forced to either violate its faith or pay millions in IRS fines. On July 1, 2014, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals took the rare step of granting emergency relief to EWTN. A Catholic network whose sole purpose is to spread the word of God, EWTN must fight for the right to remain faithful to the very religious message it advances.

Who:
Senior Counsel Lori Windham, Becket
Michael P. Warsaw, Chairman and CEO of Eternal Word Television Network

What:
Oral Argument in EWTN v. Burwell

When:
February 4, 2015 at 9:00 a.m.

Where:
11th Circuit Court of Appeals
56 Forsyth Street, N.W.
Atlanta, Georgia 30303

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or 202.349.7224.

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Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, includingBuddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Its recent cases include three major Supreme Court victories: the 9-0 win in Holt v. Hobbs, protecting the rights of religious minorities, the landmark ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 ruling in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

Mother Loraine Speaks Out for the Little Sisters of the Poor

Washington, D.C.  Sr. Loraine Marie Maguire of the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of nuns who vow to serve the elderly poor, made a statement today outside a courthouse in Denver just after a highly anticipated hearing in the case (see video).

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral argument for Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwella closely watched case that has already been to the Supreme Court once. The case involves the government’s mandate forcing religious ministries to violate their faith or pay massive IRS penalties (see video).  For the first time since the case began, Sr. Loraine Marie Maguire, Mother Provincial of the Little Sisters of the Poor, delivered a public statement on the case.

The following statement can be attributed to Sr. Loraine Marie Maguire, Mother Provincial of the Little Sisters of the Poor:

As Little Sisters of the Poor, we offer the neediest elderly of every race and religion a home where they will be welcomed as Christ, cared for as family and accompanied with dignity until God calls them to Himself.  We have done this for over 175 years because of our faith in God and our vocation as Little Sisters of the Poor.

But now the government demands we choose between our care for the elderly poor and our faith.  We cannot do that and we should not have to.  It is a choice that violates our nation’s historic commitment to ensure that people from diverse faiths can freely follow God’s calling in their lives. But the government forces us to either violate our conscience or take millions of dollars that we raise by begging for the care of the elderly poor and instead pay fines to the IRS.

We are not seeking special privileges.  The government exempts huge corporations, small businesses, and other religious ministries from what they are imposing on us–we are simply asking to carry on our mission to serve the elderly poor as we have always done for 175 years.

We are thankful that the court has heard our case and for the work of Becket, and we prayerfully await the judges’ decision.

The following statement can be attributed to Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel of Becket for Religious Liberty and lead attorney for the Little Sisters of the Poor:

A year after losing at the Supreme Court, the government’s aggressive pursuit of the Little Sisters of the Poor continues. Untold millions of people have managed to get contraceptives without the involvement of nuns.  The idea that the most powerful government in the world cannot come up with a way to distribute these products without forcing the Little Sisters to participate is ridiculous.

Becket has led the charge against the unconstitutional HHS mandate, winning a landmark victory at the U.S. Supreme Court in  Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. It currently represents the Little Sisters of the Poor, Mother Angelica’s Eternal Word Television Network, and Colorado Christian University, along with many other religious ministries.

 

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including: Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Its recent cases include two major Supreme Court victories: the landmark ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 ruling in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

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For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or call 202.349.7224.

The righteousness in Hobby Lobby’s cause

Los Angeles Times, December 5, 2013

The government and others argue that the Greens’ religious beliefs are irrelevant because they’ve freely chosen to enter the rough-and-tumble world of commerce and that, in any event, the exercise of religion is for individuals, not corporations. But Hobby Lobby’s lawyers at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty will be on solid ground when they explain to the court that both of these arguments are misguided.

What’s at Stake in the Little Sisters of the Poor Case Against Obamacare

Breitbart, December 4, 2014

For 175 years, the Little Sisters of the Poor have been inspired by their faith to take care of the elderly poor. But now the federal government wants them to choose between their faith and their ministry and is pushing hard in federal court to force them to decide. The stakes couldn’t be much higher for people who care about and enjoy religious liberty.

Read Becket Attorney, Daniel Blomberg’s full article here.

Media Advisory: Mother Provincial to Speak after Little Sisters of the Poor Hearing December 8th

Washington, D.C.  The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has scheduled oral argument for December 8th in the highly anticipated case Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwellinvolving the government’s effort to force an order of Catholic nuns to violate their religious conscience or pay massive IRS penalties (see video). The Little Sisters of the Poor are joined by over 400 ministries in this class-action lawsuit against the HHS Mandate. For the first time since the case began, Mother Provincial Sr. Loraine Marie Maguire will give a statement immediately following the hearing.

Who:
Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel of Becket and Sr. Loraine Marie Maguire, Mother Provincial of the Little Sisters of the Poor

What:
Oral Argument in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwell

When: 
December 8, 2014 at 9:00 a.m.

Where: 
United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit Byron White United States Courthouse 1823 Stout Street, Denver, CO 80257

Sr. Loraine Marie Maguire, Mother Provincial of the Little Sisters of the Poor, will give a statement immediately after the hearing, and Becket attorneys will be available for additional comment.

For more information or to arrange an interview with an attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or 202.349.7224.

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Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, includingBuddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Its recent cases include two major Supreme Court victories: the landmark ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 ruling in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

Federal Court: New HHS mandate does not protect people of faith

Washington, D.C.In yet another blow to the HHS Mandate, a federal court in Florida ruled that the government’s latest revisions to the Mandate don’t do enough to protect people of faith.

Facing millions of dollars of fines that would have taken effect this weekend, Ave Maria University stood up against the government and won an injunction this morning protecting its right to stay true to its beliefs. This is the first order enjoining the government’s latest attempt to coerce religious organizations via an “augmented rule” that it issued last August.

“After dozens of court rulings, the government still doesn’t seem to get that it can’t force faith institutions to violate their beliefs,” said Eric Baxter, Senior Counsel of Becket. “Fortunately, the courts continue to see through the government’s attempts to disguise the Mandate’s religious coercion. We congratulate Ave Maria for its courage, even under the threat of crippling fines.”

http://www.becketfund.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/read-order-here-e1414520632991.png

Ave Maria’s renewed lawsuit was filed last August in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida. To date, approximately 90% of the courts addressing the contraception mandate—including the Supreme Court in three separate lawsuits—have protected religious ministries.

Becket has led the charge against the unconstitutional HHS mandate, winning a landmark victory at the U.S. Supreme Court in  Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. It currently represents the Little Sisters of the Poor, Mother Angelica’s Eternal Word Television Network, and Colorado Christian University, along with many other  religious ministries.

“The government has been retreating since it first issued the Mandate three years ago. Now it’s time for the government to stop going after religious colleges and ministries and start respecting religious liberty,” said Baxter.

Becket  is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it hasdefended clients of all faiths,including: Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Its recent cases include two major Supreme Court victories: the landmark ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 ruling in  Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

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For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Melinda Skea at  media@becketlaw.org  or call 202.349.7224.

Government Continues Fight Against Little Sisters of the Poor

Updated: September 9, 2014 – Link to Little Sister’s Brief

Washington, D.C. – The government announced yesterday it will continue its legal battle against the Little Sisters of the Poor (see video), a religious order of nuns dedicated to serving the neediest elderly in society. The government is still trying to force the nuns to either violate their deeply held religious convictions or pay crippling fines to the IRS.

“Religious ministries in these cases serve tens of thousands of Americans, helping the poor and homeless and healing the sick. The Little Sisters of the Poor alone serve more than ten thousand of the elderly poor. These charities want to continue following their faith. They want to focus on ministry—such as sharing their faith and serving the poor—without worrying about the threat of massive IRS penalties,” said Adele Keim, Counsel at Becket, which represents the Little Sisters. “The government has already exempted millions of Americans from this requirement for commercial or secular reasons, so it should certainly protect the Little Sisters for religious reasons.”

Yesterday’s developments at a federal appeals court in Denver are the latest stage in the government’s attempt to force the Little Sisters and other charities serving the needy to comply with the HHS Mandate. Although the Supreme Court previously required the Little Sisters to do nothing more than notify the government of their religious objection, the government issued new regulations last month in an attempt to circumvent the Supreme Court’s order. Yesterday’s action confirms that the government is continuing its fight to use the Little Sisters’ health plan–provided by Christian Brothers Services–to provide potentially life-terminating drugs and devices in violation of their religious beliefs. The new regulations provide that the nuns’ approval can be written on a different form, and be routed through the government to Christian Brothers and any other plan administrators.

“Merely offering the Little Sisters a different way to violate their religion does not ease their conscience,” said Keim. “Adding another layer of paperwork is a solution that only a bureaucrat could love. The federal government has many ways to deliver contraceptives. There’s no reason it should force nuns to do that for them; the First Amendment and Religious Freedom Restoration Act offers two very good reasons why it shouldn’t.”

The Little Sisters’ brief concerning the new rule will be filed later this evening. To date, approximately 90% of the courts addressing the contraception mandate—including the Supreme Court in three separate lawsuits—have protected religious ministries. Becket for Religious Liberty has led the charge against the unconstitutional HHS mandate, winning a landmark victory at the U.S. Supreme Court in  Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. It currently represents the Little Sisters of the Poor, Mother Angelica’s Eternal Word Television Network, and Colorado Christian University, along with many other religious ministries.

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Its recent cases include two major Supreme Court victories: the landmark ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 ruling in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys handling this case, please contact  Melinda Skea,  media@becketlaw.org, 202.349.7224.

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States Stand with Nun’s Network in Defending Religious Liberty

Washington, D.C. – Today the states of Alabama, Georgia and Florida asked a federal appeals court to protect religious freedom for Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). EWTN, founded by a cloistered nun and dedicated to spreading the teachings of the Catholic Church, is seeking protection from the HHS Mandate, which requires it either to violate its deeply held beliefs or to pay crippling fines to the IRS (see video).

The three states filed a friend-of-the-court brief, joining twenty other groups in calling on the federal courts to protect EWTN’s religious freedom.  On June 30, thanks to an emergency appeal from Becket, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals granted EWTN last-minute relief, just hours before the world’s largest religious media network would be forced to violate its deeply help religious convictions or pay crippling fines to the IRS. Thanks to the Eleventh Circuit’s decision, EWTN can now freely practice what it preaches while it pursues its appeal. That appeal is expected to be heard by the Eleventh Circuit in the coming months.

“It sets a powerful example when three states stand up to support religious freedom for ministries like EWTN,” said Lori Windham, Senior Counsel at Becket. “These states recognize that they must protect religious freedom for their citizens. It’s time for the federal government to realize the same thing and stop fighting ministries like EWTN and the Little Sisters of the Poor.”

Thirty-three years ago, Mother Angelica, a cloistered nun, founded a small television network in her monastery garage with a mission to spread the teachings of her Catholic faith. Today, EWTN has become the largest religious media network in the world, transmitting programming 24 hours a day to televisions in more than 230 million homes in more than 140 countries and territories. EWTN is also a religious shrine and pilgrimage site for millions of Catholics seeking daily mass and worship. A Catholic network whose sole purpose is to spread the word of God, EWTN must fight for the right to remain faithful to the very Catholic message it advances (see video).

“We are grateful for all the support that we have received in our fight for religious freedom,” said EWTN Chairman and CEO Michael P. Warsaw. “We are hopeful that the federal courts will once again protect EWTN’s freedom to share the Catholic faith with the world, free of government fines.”

After their original lawsuit was dismissed in early 2013, EWTN and the Attorney General of the State of Alabama joined Becket last October in filing a new lawsuit against the unconstitutional HHS mandate. After an unfavorable ruling from the district court, the Eleventh Circuit granted EWTN emergency relief while it pursues its appeal. Eighty percent of legal challenges to the HHS Mandate have resulted in favorable rulings supporting religious freedom. There are currently 100 lawsuits challenging the unconstitutional HHS mandate.

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Its recent cases include two major Supreme Court victories: the landmark ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 ruling in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact  Melinda Skea, media@becketlaw.org, 202.349.7224.

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Becket Statement Regarding Upcoming HHS Regulation

In a brief to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals last night, the government announced, “they have determined to augment the regulatory accommodation process in light of the Wheaton College injunction and that they plan to issue interim final rules within a month.”

Becket has led the charge against the unconstitutional HHS mandate winning a landmark victory at the U.S. Supreme Court in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and currently represents Little Sisters of the Poor along with many other religious ministries.

The following can be attributed to Lori Windham, Senior Counsel for Becket:

Yesterday, HHS told a federal appeals court that, once again, it plans to change the contraceptive mandate imposed on religious charities such as the Little Sisters of the Poor (see video).  This is just the latest step in the government’s long retreat on the HHS Mandate. It is at least the seventh time in three years that the government has retreated from its original, hard-line stance that only “houses of worship” that hire and serve fellow believers deserve religious freedom.

We are encouraged that the government is reviewing its policies. We hope the government will listen to the thousands of voices that called on the government to protect religious liberty. It’s time for the government to stop fighting the 30 federal court orders—including two from the Supreme Court—protecting religious ministries from the Mandate.

Religious ministries want to focus on ministry—such as sharing their faith and serving the poor—without worrying about the threat of massive IRS penalties. They are praying that the government’s new rules will allow them to do so.

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Its recent cases include two major Supreme Court victories: the landmark ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 ruling in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

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Hobby Lobby (In)Sanity and the Right to be Wrong

By Adèle Keim, Legal Counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

Tired of all the overblown claims about what the Supreme Court actually did in Hobby Lobby? So is the Washington Post. And Politifact. Megan McArdle’s Q & A at Bloomberg is a terrific antidote as well. And of course, you can find Becket’s perspective here.

But the brouhaha about Hobby Lobby raises a bigger question: how do we get along in a nation where we strongly disagree about things like birth control, sex, and religion?

Continue reading “Hobby Lobby (In)Sanity and the Right to be Wrong”

What Hobby Lobby Means for Religious Liberty

By Zachary Enos, Assistant Director of Communications

Looking for the inside scoop on Hobby Lobby’s historic advance of religious liberty? You just found it! Only hours after the Supreme Court’s ruling, Eugene Volokh of the Volokh Conspiracy blog (hosted by the Washington Post) published exclusive legal analysis from Professor Mark Rienzi—one of Hobby Lobby’s lead attorneys and Senior Counsel for the Becket Fund.

After highlighting landmark aspects of the opinion, Rienzi demonstrates that High Court’s reasoning sounds the death knell for the Administration’s assault on religious ministries. Here’s a brief sketch of Mark’s points: Continue reading “What Hobby Lobby Means for Religious Liberty”

Lawyer: Hobby Lobby Ruling Will Help Religious Nonprofits Win Exemptions

CNS News July 11, 2014

The U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling has opened a door for religious non-profits that also oppose the Obama administration’s contraceptive mandate and its resulting accommodation authorizing third-parties to pay for abortion-inducing drugs, says Mark Rienzi, senior counsel for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

The ruling will strengthen the case of such groups, including the Little Sisters of the Poor and Wheaton College, as they attempt to get a hearing before the high court, Rienzi told attendees at a Heritage Foundation event in Washington this week.

The Becket Fund represented Hobby Lobby in its successful challenge of the contraceptive mandate.

Supreme Court Grants Emergency Relief to Christian College

Washington, D.C. – In another important victory against the HHS Mandate, Wheaton College received last minute relief from the Supreme Court today, protecting the College’s right to carry out its religious mission free from crippling IRS fines.The Court’s order states that Wheaton “need not use the form prescribed by the Government” under the HHS Mandate, and it prohibits the government “from enforcing against [Wheaton] the challenged provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and related regulations pending final disposition of appellate review.” The order gives Wheaton the same relief that the Supreme Court gave to the Little Sisters of the Poor in January. It comes just days after Hobby Lobby and Eternal Word Television Network won similar victories at the Supreme Court and Eleventh Circuit (see video).

“The Court rightly recognized that Wheaton’s religious community should be allowed to practice its faith free from crushing government fines,”said Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel for Becket, which represents Wheaton College.Wheaton College is a pervasively Christian academic institution, whose motto is “For Christ and His Kingdom.” Its students, faculty, and staff commit to a Community Covenant that affirms “the God-given worth of human beings, from conception to death.”

“On the eve of Independence Day, we are grateful to God that the Supreme Court has made a wise decision in protecting our religious liberty–at least until we have an opportunity to make our full case in court. We continue to believe that a college community that affirms the sanctity of human life from conception to the grave should not be coerced by the government into facilitating the provision of abortion-inducing drugs,” said Dr. Philip Ryken, President of Wheaton College.

Today, thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision, Wheaton College joins Hobby Lobby, Eternal Word Television Network (see video) and many other organizations that that have received favorable rulings against the HHS Mandate. Non-profit religious organizations have now received 30 injunctions against the mandate; only three injunctions have been denied. Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions.

For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Its recent cases include two major Supreme Court victories: the landmark ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 ruling in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact  Melinda Skea, media@becketlaw.org, 202.349.7224.

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Six More Religious Groups Win Emergency Relief from HHS Mandate

Washington, D.C. – On the same day the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed religious freedom for the Green family, founders and owners of Hobby Lobby stores, two federal courts issued decisions making clear the court’s decision will also reach broadly to protect non-profit religious organizations.In two more quick wins for religious freedom Eternal Word Television Network and five Catholic institutions in Wyoming were granted last minute relief from two federal courts of appeals. The rulings came one day before these institutions would be forced to violate their deeply help religious convictions or pay crippling fines to the IRS on July 1.  Pending the Hobby Lobby ruling, Becket asked the Eleventh Circuit to step in to protect Eternal Word from being forced to provide potentially life-terminating drugs and devices that violate their teachings (see video).

“Thanks to the courts’ decisions, Eternal Word can now freely practice what they preach. The death knell is sounding for the HHS Mandate,” said Lori Windham, Senior Counsel at Becket and counsel for Eternal Word. “The ruling in Hobby Lobby and then these two rulings in quick succession show that the HHS Mandate is on its last legs when it comes to religious non-profits. The sad part is that it has taken almost three years of litigation to get to a result the Administration should have supported in the first place because it is the right thing to do. Government shouldn’t be in the business of forcing nuns to violate their religious convictions.”Thirty-three years ago, Mother Angelica, a cloistered nun, founded a small television network in her monastery garage with a mission to spread the teachings of her Catholic faith. Today, Eternal Word has become the largest religious media network in the world, transmitting programming 24 hours a day to televisions in more than 230 million homes in more than 140 countries and territories. Eternal Word is also a religious shrine and pilgrimage site for millions of Catholics seeking daily mass and worship. A Catholic network whose sole purpose is to spread the word of God, Eternal Word must fight for the right to remain faithful to the very Catholic message it advances (see video).The five Wyoming Catholic entities are the Catholic Diocese of Cheyenne, Catholic Charities of Wyoming, St. Joseph’s Children’s Home, St. Anthony Tri-Parish Catholic School, and Wyoming Catholic College. They are represented by the Jones Day law firm.


In his concurring opinion
in the Eleventh Circuit decision protecting Eternal Word, federal appeals court Judge William Pryor called the Government’s arguments “Rubbish.”And finally, last night, the Supreme Court entered a temporary injunction protecting Wheaton College while the government responds to Wheaton’s application for an injunction pending appeal.The seven religious institutions that obtained protection today join the 80%+ of HHS legal challenges that have resulted in favorable rulings supporting religious freedom. There are currently 100 lawsuits challenging the unconstitutional HHS mandate.

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 19 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. Becket recently won a 9-0 Supreme Court victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Melinda Skea, media@becketlaw.org, 202.349.7224.

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Private: Prof. Mark Rienzi: A good day for Hobby Lobby — and for the Little Sisters of the Poor and Mr. Muhammad, too

Mark Rienzi explains that the Hobby Lobby decision on Monday was historic in many ways. The decisions clarified the idea that for-profit corporations can exercise their religion and stands as the first time the Supreme Court addressed the question of substantial burden under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Mark also adds that the decision will positively effect non-profit institutions like the Little Sisters of the Poor as well as non-mandate cases like Holt v. Hobbs.

Read the entire article here.

 

ADVISORY: Supreme Court Victory for Hobby Lobby and Religious Freedom

Washington, D.C. – The Supreme Court granted a victory to David and Barbara Green and their family business, Hobby Lobby, this morning. A press conference call will be held at 12:00pm EST to discuss the ruling and implication of the decision. A full press release will be sent out immediately following the call.

The following statement can be attributed to Lori Windham, Senior Counsel at Becket for Religious Liberty and counsel for Hobby Lobby in this case:

This is a landmark decision for religious freedom. The Supreme Court recognized that Americans do not lose their religious freedom when they run a family business.”

The following statement can be attributed to Barbara Green, co-founder of Hobby Lobby:

“Our family is overjoyed by the Supreme Court’s decision. Today the nation’s highest court has re-affirmed the vital importance of religious liberty as one of our country’s founding principles. The Court’s decision is a victory, not just for our family business, but for all who seek to live out their faith. We are grateful to God and to those who have supported us on this difficult journey.”

What:
Press briefing to discuss Supreme Court decision in Hobby Lobby                 

Who:
Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel for Becket and counsel for Hobby Lobby

When:
12:00pm EST, June 30, 2014

Where:
800.704.9804, Access code: 743216#*1 to ask a question or e-mail media@becketlaw.org

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 18 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. Becket recently won a 9-0 victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”   For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or call 202.349.7224.

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Supreme Court Victory for Hobby Lobby and Religious Freedom

Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Supreme Court granted a landmark victory for religious liberty today, ruling in the case of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that individuals do not lose their religious freedom when they open a family business.  The court ruled 5-4 in favor of David and Barbara Green and their family business, Hobby Lobby, ruling that they will not be required to violate their faith by including four potentially life-terminating drugs and devices in the company’s health insurance plan or pay severe fines.

“This is a landmark decision for religious freedom.  The Supreme Court recognized that Americans do not lose their religious freedom when they run a family business,” said Lori Windham, Senior Counsel for Becket and counsel for Hobby Lobby. “This ruling will protect people of all faiths. The Court’s reasoning was clear, and it should have been clear to the government. You can’t argue there are no alternative means when your agency is busy creating alternative means for other people.”

The decision also has important implications for over 50 pending lawsuits brought by non-profit religious organizations, such as the Little Sisters of the Poor, which are also challenging the mandate. In two different respects, the Supreme Court strongly signaled that the mandate may be struck down in those cases too. First, it rejected the government’s argument that there was no burden on the Green’s religious exercise because only third parties use the drugs. Second, it held that the government could simply pay for contraception coverage with its own funds, rather than requiring private employers to do so.

“The handwriting is on the wall,” said Windham. “The Court has strongly signaled that the mandate is in trouble in the non-profit cases, too.”

The Court upheld a June 2013 ruling by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals protecting Hobby Lobby and the Green family from the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate. That mandate requires Hobby Lobby and co-founders David and Barbara Green to provide and facilitate, against their religious convictions, four potentially life-terminating drugs and devices in the company’s health insurance plan. The Greens argued that the mandate substantially burdened their religious beliefs in violation of a federal law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (see video).In an opinion by Justice Alito, the Court stated:

The plain terms of RFRA make it perfectly clear that Congress did not discriminate . . . against men and women who wish to run their businesses as for-profit corporations in the manner required by their religious beliefs. . . . Our responsibility is to enforce RFRA as written, and under the standard that RFRA prescribes, the HHS contraceptive mandate is unlawful.”

Justice Kennedy’s concurrence added: “Among the reasons the United States is so open, so tolerant, and so free is that no person may be restricted or demeaned by government in exercising his or her religion.”The Greens and their family businesses have no moral objection to providing 16 of the 20 FDA-approved contraceptives under the HHS mandate, and will continue to provide a broad range of contraceptives at no additional cost to their employees.

“Our family is overjoyed by the Supreme Court’s decision. Today the nation’s highest court has re-affirmed the vital importance of religious liberty as one of our country’s founding principles,” said Barbara Green, co-founder of Hobby Lobby. “The Court’s decision is a victory, not just for our family business, but for all who seek to live out their faith. We are grateful to God and to those who have supported us on this difficult journey.”

Founded in an Oklahoma City garage in 1972, the Green family has grown Hobby Lobby from one 300-square-foot retail space into more than 603 stores in 47 states (626 stores by the end of 2014). Devout Christians, the Green family believes that “It is by God’s grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has endured” and seek to run their company “in a manner consistent with Biblical principles.” This includes closing on Sundays and generous treatment of their employees, with full-time hourly workers starting at more than double the federal minimum wage.Also joining the lawsuit is Mardel Christian & Education, a chain of Christian bookstores owned and operated by members of the Green family.

The case of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby was consolidated before the Supreme Court with Conestoga v. Burwell. Becket represented Hobby Lobby, Mardel and the Greens together with Paul D. Clement of Bancroft, PLLC, who presented the oral argument before the court in March.

Becket  is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 18 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. Becket recently won a 9-0 victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”    For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Melinda Skea at  media@becketlaw.org  or call 202.349.7224.

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Catholic Nun’s Network Wins Emergency Relief from 11th Circuit

Washington, D.C. – In a resounding victory for religious freedom, today Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), founded by a cloistered nun and dedicated to spreading the teachings of the Catholic Church, was granted last minute relief from the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, one day before the world’s largest religious media network would be forced to violate its deeply help religious convictions or pay crippling fines to the IRS on July 1 (see video).After the district judge recently issued a disappointing ruling against the global Catholic media network, Becket filed an emergency appeal to the Eleventh Circuit. Pending that ruling, Becket urged the Supreme Court and the Eleventh Circuit to step in to protect EWTN from being forced to provide contraceptives and potentially life-terminating drugs and devices that violate its Catholic teachings. Thanks to the Eleventh Circuit’s decision today to grant temporary emergency relief to the Catholic network, EWTN can now freely practice what it preaches while it pursues its claims in court.

“On the same day as the Hobby Lobby decision, the Eleventh Circuit protected religious ministries challenging the same government mandate,” said Lori Windham, Senior Counsel at Becket. “It’s time for the government to stop fighting ministries like EWTN and the Little Sisters of the Poor, and start respecting religious freedom.”
Thirty-three years ago, Mother Angelica, a cloistered nun, founded a small television network in her monastery garage with a mission to spread the teachings of her Catholic faith. Today, EWTN has become the largest religious media network in the world, transmitting programming 24 hours a day to televisions in more than 230 million homes in more than 140 countries and territories. EWTN is also a religious shrine and pilgrimage site for millions of Catholics seeking daily mass and worship. A Catholic network whose sole purpose is to spread the word of God, EWTN must fight for the right to remain faithful to the very Catholic message it advances (see video).

“We are thankful that the Eleventh Circuit protected our right to religious freedom while we pursue our case in court,” said EWTN Chairman and CEO Michael P. Warsaw. “We want to continue to practice the same Catholic faith that we preach to the world every day.”

After their original lawsuit was dismissed in early 2013, EWTN and the Attorney General of the State of Alabama joined Becket last October in filing a new lawsuit against the unconstitutional HHS mandate. After turning to the Supreme Court on Friday, today EWTN joins the 80% of HHS legal challenges that have resulted in favorable rulings supporting religious freedom. There are currently 100 lawsuits challenging the unconstitutional HHS mandate.

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 19 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. Becket recently won a 9-0 Supreme Court victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Melinda Skea, media@becketlaw.org, 202.349.7224.

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Prof. Mark Rienzi: A good day for Hobby Lobby — and for the Little Sisters of the Poor and Mr. Muhammad, too

Washington Post June 30, 2014


Here are a few initial thoughts on today’s decision in Hobby Lobby from the perspective of a law firm — The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty — that has been litigating these cases against the Department of Justice across the country for almost three years, and was counsel for Hobby Lobby in this case. First I offer some highlights from the opinions by Justice Alito and Justice Kennedy, and then I point out some near-term effects on religious liberty litigation.

Awaiting Hobby Lobby decision, Catholic Nun’s Network Seeks Emergency Relief from U.S. Supreme Court

Washington, D.C. Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), founded by a cloistered nun and dedicated to spreading the teachings of the Catholic Church, filed an emergency appeal today asking the U.S. Supreme Court to protect the world’s largest religious media network from violating its deeply help religious convictions or paying crippling fines to the IRS starting July 1 (see video).

After the district judge issued a disappointing ruling against the nun’s network last week, Becket filed an emergency appeal to the 11th Circuit. Pending that ruling, today Becket urged the Supreme Court to step in to protect EWTN from being forced to provide contraceptives and potentially life-terminating drugs and devices that violate its Catholic teachings. Without relief, starting on July 1st the Catholic network faces fines of up to $12 million dollars per year to the IRS. A petition for the Supreme Court to take up the full merits of the case will be filed shortly.

“The government fought the Little Sisters of the Poor all the way to the Supreme Court, and now it is fighting Eternal Word Television Network all the way to the Supreme Court,” said Lori Windham, Senior Counsel at Becket. “It’s time for the government to stop its war on nuns and protect religious ministries from this unjust mandate. Our laws give EWTN the right to practice what it preaches.”

Thirty-three years ago, Mother Angelica, a cloistered nun, founded a small television network in her monastery garage with a mission to spread the teachings of her Catholic faith. Today, EWTN has become the largest religious media network in the world, transmitting programming 24 hours a day to televisions in more than 230 million homes in more than 140 countries and territories, according to the organization’s website. EWTN is also a religious shrine and pilgrimage site for millions of Catholics seeking daily mass and worship. A Catholic network whose sole purpose is to spread the word of God, EWTN must fight for the right to remain faithful to the very Catholic message it advances (see video).

“We did not want to take the government all the way to the Supreme Court, but we were left with no choice,” said EWTN Chairman and CEO Michael P. Warsaw. “We should not be forced to choose between violating our faith and paying severe fines to the IRS.”

After their original lawsuit was dismissed in early 2013, EWTN and the Attorney General of the State of Alabama joined Becket last October in filing a new lawsuit against the unconstitutional HHS mandate. Today, EWTN turned to the Supreme Court hoping to join the 80% of HHS legal challenges that have resulted in favorable rulings supporting religious freedom. There are currently 100 lawsuits challenging the unconstitutional HHS mandate.

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 19 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. The Becket Fund recently won a 9-0 Supreme Court victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Melinda Skea, media@becketlaw.org, 202.349.7224.

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After Hobby Lobby, what’s next?

The Hill , June 25, 2014


As a last resort, the Little Sisters, represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty (which also represents Hobby Lobby), filed a lawsuit challenging the contraception mandate—one of 51 suits on behalf of over 200 non-profit ministries. Although the Little Sisters make many of the same arguments as Hobby Lobby, a federal appeals court ruled against them in late December, and they filed an emergency appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court on New Year’s Eve—just hours before the multi-million dollar fines would begin. Fortunately, the Supreme Court unanimously granted them a temporary reprieve, ordering the government not to enforce the mandate against them while their lawsuit moved forward. The case is now awaiting a decision from the federal court of appeals.

Experts Weigh In On Upcoming Hobby Lobby Decision

Townhall June 23, 2014

The Supreme Court is set to make a decision in the famous Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby case by June 30 before it lets out for the summer, and religious employers are poised to see whether they will be allowed an exemption for their beliefs. Adele Keim of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), and Heritage policy analyst Sarah Torre discussed the implications of the HHS mandate and the case at a Thursday event co-hosted by the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute and the Heritage Foundation.

Colorado Christian University Wins Big Victory Against Obama HHS Mandate

LifeNews June 23, 2014

“This is an important win for religious liberty,” said Eric Baxter, Senior Counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, who represents CCU in this case. “A university like CCU, whose employees and students share its religious convictions concerning the sanctity of life, should not be forced against its beliefs to distribute drugs that it deems to be morally wrong.”

Colorado Christian University Obtains Injunction Against HHS Mandate

Washington D.C. – Colorado Christian University (CCU) scored a victory for religious liberty today when a federal judge in Denver ruled that the Christian-based institution does not have to facilitate access for its employees and students to potentially life-terminating drugs.

“This is an important win for religious liberty,” said Eric Baxter, Senior Counsel at Becket for Religious Liberty, who represents CCU in this case. “A university like CCU, whose employees and students share its religious convictions concerning the sanctity of life, should not be forced against its beliefs to distribute drugs that it deems to be morally wrong.”

In a carefully reasoned opinion, the court ruled that the Health and Human Services Mandate, which would have forced CCU to include drugs like Plan B (the “morning after” pill) and ella (the “week after” pill) in its health care plan, infringes the University’s freedom of religion. The court noted that “[i]f CCU refused to provide health insurance coverage for its employees,” or “did not include the coverages required by the Mandate, CCU would be subject to significant – if not ruinous – financial penalties.” The court then concluded that this pressure on CCU to violate its religious beliefs violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

“We’re extremely grateful for the District Court’s affirmation of our religious freedom,” said William Armstrong, President of CCU. “Teaching sanctity of life from the moment of conception is an important part of the University’s mission and a core value shared by its employees and students.”

Before the Court issued its order, CCU faced millions of dollars in annual fines beginning July 1 for refusing to include the objectionable drugs in its healthcare plan.For almost a century, Colorado Christian University has offered an education that develops students intellectually, professionally, and spiritually. Faith is central to the CCU’s educational mission, which is to cultivate knowledge and love of God in a Christ-centered community, with an enduring commitment to spiritual formation and engagement with the world.Based near Denver with satellite campuses around Colorado, the University has 5,500 undergraduate and graduate students.

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Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. Becket has a 19-year history of defending religious liberty for people of all faiths. Its attorneys are recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. They recently won a 9-0 victory against the federal government at the U.S. Supreme Court in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC.

Why Hobby Lobby is a family business

Deseret News, June 6, 2014

As a way of explaining what Hobby Lobby is, and how it works as a Family Business, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents Hobby Lobby, shared a video that specifically looks at the history of the company owned by the David and Barbara Green family.

Amici Back Nearly 200 Southern Baptist and Evangelical Ministries in HHS Mandate Challenge

Washington, D.C. – Nearly 200 Southern Baptist and Evangelical ministries received widespread support in their HHS Mandate challenge from legal briefs filed by a diverse group of religious and secular organizations.

GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, Reaching Souls International, and Truett-McConnell College represent nearly 200 religious ministries in their class-action lawsuit against the administration’s HHS Mandate, which demands that they violate their conscience or pay crippling penalties. The class of approximately 187 ministries currently receive conscience-compliant health benefits through GuideStone, the benefits arm of the Southern Baptist Convention that has served Southern Baptist churches and affiliated ministries for nearly 100 years.

GuideStone already covers the contraceptive methods used by most American women, such as the Pill. Like many other Evangelical Christian organizations, GuideStone, Reaching Souls, and Truett-McConnell only object to the narrow class of contraceptives that can risk of destroying newly-created human life.

“Reaching Souls cares for orphans in Africa and trains pastors in Africa, India, and Cuba. Truett-McConnell trains college students to follow Christ with their whole lives. These ministries—and hundreds others like them—have chosen GuideStone because they want health benefits that reflect their deeply-held Christian beliefs,” said Adèle Keim, Legal Counsel for Becket and counsel for GuideStone. “But in the government’s view, these ministries are ‘not religious enough’ to merit an exemption. The government wants to force small non-profit ministries like Reaching Souls and Truett-McConnell to change their health plan in a way that violates their consciences—or pay crushing penalties.”

Yesterday, a diverse group of religious and secular organizations filed amicus briefs defending the ministries’ right to adhere to their convictions. Amici include the National Association of Evangelicals, Prison Fellowship, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the Christian Medical Association, the Christian Legal Society, the American Center for Law and Justice, Concerned Women for America, Americans United for Life, the Judicial Education Project, and law professor Helen Alvaré. They were joined by a broad array of Southern Baptist leaders, including the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

As the brief filed by Dr. Mohler and other Southern Baptist leaders states, “[A] regulation requiring a Southern Baptist individual or ministry to be complicit in conduct that the Christian faith teaches is morally wrong forces that person or ministry into an impossible choice—to either violate conscience or violate the law. … In light of th[eir] spiritual duty, it is . . . not surprising that Appellees refuse to quail before the government’s demand to violate conscience[.]”

The lawsuit was filed by Becket and Locke Lord LLP in federal district court in Oklahoma. Becket is also representing the Little Sisters of the Poor, Hobby Lobby, Belmont Abbey College, Colorado Christian University, East Texas Baptist University, Eternal Word Television Network, Houston Baptist University, Ave Maria University, and Wheaton College in similar lawsuits.  This is the second class action filed challenging the administration’s mandate.  The other class action was filed in federal district court in Denver by Becket and Locke Lord LLP on behalf of various religious organizations participating in the Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust, a national plan established for Catholic employers.

On December 20, 2013, GuideStone, Truett-McConnell and Reaching Souls became the first class-action suit to win a preliminary injunction from the HHS Mandate. The government has appealed to the Tenth Circuit, and the parties are currently briefing that appeal.

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For 18 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. Becket recently won a 9-0 victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.” 

For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or call 202.349.7224.

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Supreme Court Hears Landmark Hobby Lobby Case

Washington, D.C. – The Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in the landmark case Sebelius v. Hobby Lobbydetermining whether individuals lose their religious freedom when they open a family business.

At issue is the Health and Human Service (HHS) Mandate which requires David and Barbara Green and their family business Hobby Lobby to provide and facilitate four potential life-terminating drugs and devices in their health insurance plan, against their religious convictions, or pay severe fines to the IRS (see video).

“Our family started Hobby Lobby built on our faith and together as a family.  We’ve kept that tradition for more than forty years and we want to continue to live out our faith in the way we do business,” said Barbara Green, co-founder of Hobby Lobby.  “The choice that the government has forced on us is out of step with the history of our great nation founded on religious freedom.  We believe that no American should lose their religious freedom just because they open a family business.  We are thankful that the Supreme Court has heard our case, and we prayerfully await the justices’ decision.”

Founded in an Oklahoma City garage in 1972, the Green family has grown Hobby Lobby from one 300-square-foot retail space into more than 500 stores in over 40 states.  Devout Christians, the Green family believes that “it is by God’s grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has endured” and seek to run their company “in a manner consistent with Biblical principles.”  This includes closing on Sundays and generous treatment of their employees with full-time hourly workers starting at 90 percent above the federal minimum wage. The Greens and their family businesses have no moral objection to providing 16 of the 20 FDA-approved contraceptives under the HHS mandate, and will continue to provide a broad range of contraceptives at no additional cost to their employees.

“No one should be forced to give up their constitutionally protected civil rights just to open a family business,” said Lori Windham, Senior Counsel for Becket and counsel for Hobby Lobby. “This case demonstrates in no uncertain terms that the government’s efforts to strip this family business of its religious rights represent a gross violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment.”

In court today former United States Solicitor General Paul Clement argued on behalf of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, two family businesses whose cases were consolidated before the court. Clement argued that Hobby Lobby and Conestoga are protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and that nothing in the law excludes these family businesses and their owners from religious freedom protections.

The Court is expected to rule on the case before the end of its current term in June.

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 18 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. Becket recently won a 9-0 victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”    For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Melinda Skea, Communications Director, at media@becketlaw.org or call 202.349.7224.

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Media Advisory: Hobby Lobby Supreme Court Arguments March 25th

Washington, D.C.The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments for the landmark case of Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores. on March 25, 2014, 10:00am EST to determine whether individuals lose their religious freedom when they open a family business. The Supreme Court agreed to take up this appeal in November and will review whether the Green family should be required to provide four potentially life-terminating drugs and devices in their employee health care plan, contrary to their religious beliefs.

What:
Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court

Who:
Following the argument, there will be brief remarks by the parties and legal counsel:

  • Hahn Family, founders and owners of Conestoga Wood
  • Green Family, founders and owners of Hobby Lobby
  • Lori Windham, Becket, counsel for Hobby Lobby
  • David Cortman, ADF, counsel for Conestoga Wood
  • Paul Clement, Bancroft PLLC, arguing the two consolidated cases before the court and will take Q&A

When:
March 25, 2014 at 10:00 a.m., press statements immediately following hearing (oral arguments have been extended to 90 minutes)

Where:
U.S. Supreme Court, 1 First St NE, Washington, DC 20543

Attorneys for Becket, counsel for Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., will be available for additional comment following the argument.

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 19 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. Becket recently won a 9-0 Supreme Court victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

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Democratic Congressman and Supporter of ACA Speaks Out Against HHS Mandate

On Tuesday, USA Today published an opinion editorial by former Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak, who proudly supports the Affordable Care Act, but exhorts his colleagues to protect the conscience of Americans like the Green family of Hobby Lobby from the controversial Health and Human Services Mandate.

Americans should never “be required to pay for abortions or violate their conscience by participating in or promoting a procedure they find morally objectionable, ” says Stupak.

Continue reading “Democratic Congressman and Supporter of ACA Speaks Out Against HHS Mandate”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, 67 Catholic Theologians, Lutherans, Southern Baptists, and the National Association of Evangelicals File Briefs Supporting the Little Sisters of the Poor

By Adèle Keim, Legal Counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

On New Years’ Eve, Justice Sonia Sotomayor intervened to protect the Little Sisters of the Poor from crushing penalties that were scheduled to begin at midnight—an order that was confirmed and expanded by the entire Supreme Court on January 24. As a result, the Little Sisters are protected from complying with the Mandate (including the government’s so-called “accommodation”) while their appeal is being considered by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. Yesterday, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, 67 Catholic theologians, and a wide-ranging group of Protestant organizations—including the National Association of Evangelicals, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod—filed briefs to tell the Tenth Circuit why the Little Sisters deserve more lasting relief. Continue reading “The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, 67 Catholic Theologians, Lutherans, Southern Baptists, and the National Association of Evangelicals File Briefs Supporting the Little Sisters of the Poor”

Hobby Lobby Press Briefing Today 3:30 p.m

Washington, D.C.Hobby Lobby, the family-owned arts and crafts business founded by David and Barbara Green, will ask the U.S. Supreme Court today to protect them from being forced to violate their deeply held religious beliefs or be forced to pay severe fines. The brief will be filed today at the Supreme Court, with the government filing its own brief in Hobby Lobby’s companion case by 11:59 p.m. EST.

In preparation for oral arguments on March 25, 2014, join us for a press briefing to discuss the legal merits, government’s position, and the implications of this case as it arrives at the Supreme Court.

What:
Press briefing for Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.

Who:
Kyle Duncan, Becket and lead counsel for Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.

When:
February 10, 2014, 3:30 p.m. EST

Where:
800.704.9804    Participant code: 743216#

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 19 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. Becket recently won a 9-0 Supreme Court victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

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Hobby Lobby Supreme Court Brief Counters Government “Divide and Conquer” Attempt to Violate Business Owners’ Religious Rights

WASHINGTON – Hobby Lobby, the family-owned arts and crafts business founded by David and Barbara Green, asked the U.S. Supreme Court today to protect them from being forced to violate their deeply held religious beliefs or be forced to pay severe fines. The written brief filed today at the Supreme Court, calls a federal mandate to provide objectionable drugs and devices “one of the most straightforward violations … this Court is likely to see” of a 1993 law preserving the free exercise of faith.

Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, to be argued at the Supreme Court March 25, 2014, will determine whether the government has the power to force family business owners to act against their faith based solely on their companies’ form of organization.  Specifically, the government is mandating that Hobby Lobby provide four potentially life-terminating drugs and devices through their health insurance plans or face severe fines, even as it concedes that doing so will violate the Green family’s beliefs.  The Greens and their family businesses have no moral objection to providing 16 of the 20 FDA-approved contraceptives under the HHS mandate, and they provide a broad range of contraceptives at no additional cost to employees under their self-insured health plan.

Hobby Lobby’s brief calls on two centuries of high court rulings to counter the government’s reasoning that the Greens’ rights as individuals cannot be exercised through their family-owned corporation. The brief insists that this freedom does not “turn on [the Company’s] tax status,” and further states that the Administration cannot “divide and conquer” the Greens’ religious liberties from those of Hobby Lobby to make those rights “simply vanish.”

“Hobby Lobby’s latest brief brings into even sharper focus the issue at the heart of this landmark case: No one should be forced to give up their constitutionally protected civil rights just to go into business,” said Kyle Duncan, General Counsel for Becket and counsel for Hobby Lobby.   “The filing demonstrates in no uncertain terms that the government’s efforts to strip this family business of its religious rights represent a gross violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment. We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will uphold the Tenth Circuit’s strong affirmation of the Greens’ rights to live out their deeply held beliefs in every aspect of their business.”

In July, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals granted Hobby Lobby a preliminary injunction preventing the government from forcing the family business to provide the objectionable drugs and devices. The government then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.  “The government has taken the extreme position that Americans forfeit their constitutional rights when they open a family business,” said Duncan.  “That rule would give the government broad powers to restrict religious freedom. People of all faiths should be concerned.” There are currently 93 lawsuits challenging the mandate, with 90% of the cases winning relief.

For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Melinda Skea, media@becketlaw.org, 202.349.7224.  

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 19 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. Becket recently won a 9-0 Supreme Court victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

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Bi-Partisan Legislators, Religious Leaders, Legal Scholars and States File Support in Supreme Court for Hobby Lobby

Washington, D.C. – At midnight tonight more than 50 briefs will be filed in the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of Hobby Lobby Stores and the Green family, supporting their challenge to the HHS mandate. Becket represents Hobby Lobby and David and Barbara Green, owners of the family business, and is the leading resource on all HHS Affordable Care Act mandate cases.

Becket will continue to update its website as the briefs are filed.   As of 11:00 a.m. EST today:

Three Congressional briefs will be filed by members of Congress from both parties.

  • 107 members of the House and Senate asked the Supreme Court to protect the Greens’ religious freedom.  Of the 107, more than 85 members of the House and Senate joined a bipartisan brief asking the Court to protect religious freedom.
  • Fifteen original signers of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act submitted a bicameral brief arguing that the civil-rights law at the core of the case was intended to protect the religious exercise of business owners like the Green family.
  • The signers are both Republicans and Democrats, men and women, and represent 34 states.

Twenty states filed a brief asking the Supreme Court to protect Hobby Lobby.

Leading scholars agree that the Supreme Court should rule for Hobby Lobby.

  • Law professors filed a brief explaining that religious accommodations like the one that protects the Greens are constitutional.   Includes: Mary Ann Glendon of Harvard Law School, Robert George of Princeton, Eugene Volokh of UCLA Law School, Rick Garnett of Notre Dame Law School, Steven Smith of the University of San Diego Law School, Nathan Chapman of University of Georgia Law School, Michael Moreland of Villanova Law School.
  • International law scholars and legal institutes filed a brief explaining that international law principles support Hobby Lobby’s claim of religious freedom.
  • More than thirty Catholic theologians and ethicists joined a brief explaining how longstanding Christian teaching supports the Greens’ refusal to participate in providing potentially life-terminating drugs and devices.
  • Pastor Rick Warren joined Eric Metaxas and over thirty Protestant theologians in a brief explaining the importance for Christians of living out their deeply held religious commitments in their work life.  This is exactly what the Greens strive to do in running their family business.
  • Professor Michael McConnell of Stanford Law School filed a brief explaining that the history of the First Amendment shows that it protects family businesses like Hobby Lobby.

Women’s groups are supporting Hobby Lobby.

  • Several women’s groups joined a brief highlighting the many women who are challenging the HHS Mandate.
  • Professor Helen Alvare and the group Women Speak for Themselves filed a brief explaining the lack of justification for the HHS Mandate.

Doctors and scholars are supporting Hobby Lobby.

  • Six medical groups filed a brief explaining the science behind the drugs and devices the Greens object to, and how they can act to terminate a pregnancy.
  • The Catholic Medical Association filed a brief explaining the legal definition of pregnancy, and how existing law supports the Greens’ objection to providing drugs that could terminate a life.
  • Professor Helen Alvare filed a brief explaining the lack of scientific evidence for the government’s arguments, including mistakes in the underlying report and how it failed to prove that changes to insurance coverage would actually have a measurable impact on public health.

Diverse religious groups support Hobby Lobby and religious freedom.

  • Christian and Jewish publishers came together to explain how the First Amendment should protect those who run businesses based upon deeply held religious convictions.
  • Orthodox Jewish groups filed a brief explaining the importance of integrating work and faith under Jewish law.
  • Supporters include:
    • Orthodox Union, a leading Orthodox Jewish association
    • U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
    • Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, a Santeria church behind that won a 9-0 Supreme Court victory under the Free Exercise Clause
    • International Society for Krishna Consciousness, a Hindu organization which has appeared before the Supreme Court to protect its own religious exercise
    • Dr. Hamza Yusuf, co-founder of Zaytuna College in California, whom The Guardian newspaper called “arguably the west’s most influential Islamic scholar.”
    • Feldheim Publishers, an American Orthodox publisher of Torah books and literature
    • CBA, an association of Christian publishers and retailers
    • Crescent Foods, a halal food company
    • Tyndale House, a Bible and Christian book publisher
    • The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention
    • The Church Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
    • Prison Fellowship Ministry
    • Anglican Church in North America
    • Coalition of Christian Colleges and Universities
    • Democrats for Life
    • Former Congressman Bart Stupak
    • House Majority Whip Eric Cantor
    • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Melinda Skea, media@becketlaw.org, 202.349.7224. Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby will be argued March 25, 2014, and decided before the end of the Supreme Court’s term in June 2014.  There are currently 91 lawsuits challenging the unconstitutional HHS mandate.

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 19 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. The Becket Fund recently won a 9-0 Supreme Court victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

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Additional Information:

U.S. Supreme Court Protects Little Sisters of the Poor

Washington, D.C. –  Today the Little Sisters of the Poor received an injunction from the Supreme Court protecting them from the controversial HHS mandate while their case is before the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.  The injunction means that the Little Sisters will not be forced to sign and deliver the controversial government forms authorizing and instructing their benefits administrator to provide contraceptives, sterilization, and drugs and devices that may cause early abortions (see video). The Court’s order also provides protection to more than 400 other Catholic organizations that receive health benefits through the same Catholic benefits provider, Christian Brothers.

“We are delighted that the Supreme Court has issued this order protecting the Little Sisters,” said Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel for Becket.  “The government has lots of ways to deliver contraceptives to people–it doesn’t need to force nuns to participate.”

To receive protection, the Supreme Court said that the Little Sisters and other organizations that receive benefits through Christian Brothers must simply inform HHS of their religious identity and objections. The Court said that the Little Sisters did not have to sign or deliver the controversial government forms that authorize and direct their benefits administrator to provide the objectionable drugs and devices.

The order was issued by the entire Supreme Court. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who is the Justice assigned for emergency applications from the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, had previously issued a temporary injunction to allow the court time to consider the Little Sisters’ emergency appeal, filed on New Years’ Eve.

Prior to the order, injunctions had been awarded in 18 of the 19 similar cases in which relief had been requested.

“Virtually every other party who asked for protection from the mandate has been given it,” said Rienzi.  “It made no sense for the Little Sisters to be singled out for fines and punishment before they could even finish their suit.”

The Little Sisters are joined in the lawsuit by religious health benefit providers, Christian Brothers Services, Christian Brothers Employee Benefits Trust.  The lawsuit is a class action on behalf of all the non-exempt organizations that receive benefits through Christian Brothers. The Plaintiffs are also represented by Locke Lord, a national law firm, and by Kevin Walsh, a law professor at the University of Richmond.

To date, there are currently 91 lawsuits challenging the unconstitutional HHS mandate. Becket represents: Hobby LobbyLittle Sisters of the PoorGuideStoneWheaton CollegeEast Texas Baptist University, Houston Baptist UniversityColorado Christian University, the Eternal Word Television NetworkAve Maria University, and Belmont Abbey College.

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 19 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. Becket recently won a 9-0 Supreme Court victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Melinda Skeamedia@becketlaw.org, 202.349.7224.

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Let the Little Sisters be Sisters

By Daniel Blomberg, Legal Counsel at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

Since their founding in 1839, the Little Sisters of the Poor have existed for just one reason: treating the poor, elderly outcasts of society as if they were Jesus Christ. The Little Sisters’ foundress gave up her bed to the elderly poor, begged to get food and shelter for the elderly poor, and started a movement that holds the hands of the elderly poor as they leave this life and are welcomed into the arms of God. As the director of nursing at the Little Sisters’ Washington D.C. home explained, no one dies alone at a Little Sisters home. This commitment to caring for those at life’s end is based on the Little Sisters’ fundamental religious commitment to the God-given dignity of every human life, and particularly those human lives that society doesn’t care to protect.

But after almost 175 years of ministry to the elderly, the federal government demanded that the Little Sisters make a choice: either reject the core of their religious identity by providing drugs and devices that can take innocent human lives, or take millions of dollars away from the elderly poor and pay it to the IRS as the cost of staying true to who they are.

Continue reading “Let the Little Sisters be Sisters”

Little Sisters of the Poor Granted Temporary Injunction by Supreme Court

Washington, D.C. –  Tonight the Little Sisters of the Poor received a temporary injunction from the Supreme Court protecting them from the controversial HHS contraceptive mandate.  The injunction means that the Little Sisters will not be forced to sign and deliver forms tonight authorizing and directing others to provide contraceptives, sterilizations and drugs and devices that cause abortions (see video).

 “We are delighted that the Supreme Court has issued this order protecting the Little Sisters,” said Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel for Becket.  “The government has lots of ways to deliver contraceptives to people–it doesn’t need to force nuns to participate.”

The order was issued by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who is the Justice assigned for emergency applications from the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.  Justice Sotomayor also ordered the federal government to file a brief in response to the Little Sisters’ application.

 Prior to the order, preliminary injunctions had been awarded in 18 of the 20 similar cases in which relief had been requested.

 “Virtually every other party who asked for protection from the mandate has been given it,” said Rienzi.  “It makes no sense for the Little Sisters to be singled out for fines and punishment before they can even finish their suit.”

 The Little Sisters are joined in the lawsuit by religious health benefit providers, Christian Brothers Services, Christian Brothers Employee Benefits Trust.  The Plaintiffs are also represented by Locke Lord, a national law firm, and by Kevin Walsh, a law professor at the University of Richmond.

 To date, there are currently 91 lawsuits challenging the unconstitutional HHS mandate. Becket represents: Hobby Lobby, Little Sisters of the Poor, Guidestone, Wheaton College, East Texas Baptist University, Houston Baptist University, Colorado Christian University, the Eternal Word Television Network, Ave Maria University, and Belmont Abbey College.

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 19 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. Becket recently won a 9-0 Supreme Court victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

 For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Melinda Skea, media@becketlaw.org, 202.349.7224.

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Texas Baptist Universities Win Lawsuit Against Controversial HHS Mandate

Washington, D.C. – Today a Houston federal court delivered a major blow to the controversial HHS mandate ruling in favor of East Texas Baptist University and Houston Baptist University.  In a 46-page opinion, the court ruled that the federal mandate requiring employers to provide employees with abortion-causing drugs and devices violates federal civil rights laws, and issued an injunction against the mandate. Religious plaintiffs have now won injunctions in 9 out of 12 such cases involving non-profit entities challenging the mandate.

“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 Becket, 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!”

In its opinion, the federal court 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.”

The decision is part of a recent groundswell of cases decided against the government. In nine of the twelve cases decided thus far, federal district courts across the country have issued injunctions against the mandate.

“The government has enforced the health care reform law very unevenly, handing out exemptions to those it sees as its allies,” stated Rassbach. “Perhaps the worst part of the government’s approach is that it seems to have decided that religious institutions are the only ones not to get an exemption.”

Also participating as plaintiff in the case is Westminster Theological Seminary, a Reformed Protestant seminary based in Philadelphia. Westminster is represented by Kenneth Wynne of Wynne & Wynne, LLP.

To date, there are currently 89 lawsuits challenging the unconstitutional HHS mandate. Becket represents: Hobby Lobby, Little Sisters of the Poor, Guidestone, Wheaton College, East Texas Baptist University, Houston Baptist University, Colorado Christian University, the Eternal Word Television Network, Ave Maria University, and Belmont Abbey College.

Two HHS mandate cases involving for-profit plaintiffs – Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood – are set to be argued before the Supreme Court in March.

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 19 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. Becket recently won a 9-0 Supreme Court victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Melinda Skea, media@becketlaw.org, 202.349.7224.

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First Class-Action Suit Wins Preliminary Injunction from HHS Mandate

Washington, D.C. – On Friday, a federal district court granted nearly 200 evangelical ministries relief from the administration’s contraceptive and abortifacient mandate. All the non-exempt religious organizations that provide their employees with health benefits through GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention—including lead plaintiffs Truett-McConnell CollegeReaching Souls International—are now protected from the mandate while their case proceeds.  These evangelical organizations only object to four out of twenty FDA-approved contraceptives—those like the “morning after pill” and the “week after pill” that may cause early abortions. The court’s order is an early Christmas gift that came just days before the January 1, 2014 deadline that would have forced the ministries to choose between following their religious beliefs about the sanctity of life and paying thousands of dollars a day in fines.

“This is an overwhelming victory for GuideStone and the nearly 200 plaintiffs in this class-action lawsuit,” said Adèle Keim, Legal Counsel for Becket, and attorney for GuideStone. “For over 200 years, Baptists in America have stood for religious liberty for all. Today’s ruling will allow hundreds of Baptist ministries to continue preaching the Gospel and serving the poor this Christmas, without laboring under the threat of massive fines.” Becket is co-counsel on the case with Locke Lord LLP and Conner & Winters LLP.

The class, represented by Reaching Souls International and Truett-McConnell College, includes 187 ministries that currently receive health benefits through GuideStone, the health benefits arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. Reaching Souls International trains pastors and cares for orphans in Africa, India, and Cuba, and Truett-McConnell College is a Georgia Baptist college.

Following a hearing on Monday, the federal district court granted GuideStone, Truett-McConnell College, and Reaching Souls injunctive relief from the government’s mandate. The court’s order protects all of the ministries that receive health benefits through GuideStone and are not otherwise exempt from the HHS mandate. The court opinion reads, “Upon consideration, the Court finds Defendants’ argument to be simply another variation of a proposition rejected by the court of appeals in Hobby Lobby.”

This is the first class-action victory against the mandate, and the sixth injunction among the non-profit challengers.

To date, there are currently 89 lawsuits challenging the unconstitutional HHS mandate. Becket represents: Hobby Lobby, Little Sisters of the Poor, GuideStone, Wheaton College, East Texas Baptist University, Houston Baptist University, Colorado Christian University, the Eternal Word Television Network, Ave Maria University, and Belmont Abbey College.

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 19 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. Becket recently won a 9-0 Supreme Court victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Melinda Skea, media@becketlaw.org, 202.349.7224.

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Wheaton College Challenges Controversial HHS Mandate

Washington, D.C. – Today Becket refiled its lawsuit on behalf of Wheaton College against the administration’s controversial HHS mandate, which forces the evangelical liberal arts institution to violate its religious teachings or pay ruinous fines. Wheaton College’s original lawsuit was delayed for over a year by the government’s promise of a religious accommodation, but the government still insists that Wheaton College is not a “religious employer” and therefore ineligible for a religious exemption.

“The administration is still forcing Wheaton College to make an impossible choice to either comply with the mandate and violate its conscience, or pay severe fines,” said Adèle Keim, Legal Counsel at Becket and lead counsel for Wheaton. “Any definition of ‘religious employer’ that leaves out Wheaton College is obviously flawed.”

Wheaton College is an explicitly Christian liberal arts college and graduate school with a deep commitment to do all things “For Christ and His Kingdom.” A pervasively Christian institution, Wheaton’s students, faculty, and staff affirm “the God-given worth of human beings, from conception to death.” The institution’s religious convictions prevent it from providing its employees with access to abortion-causing drugs that can harm human life. Wheaton College is now fighting for the right to carry out its Christian mission free from government coercion.

“We cannot abandon our Christian beliefs simply because the government refuses to recognize that Wheaton is a religious institution,” said Philip Ryken, President of Wheaton College.  “The government has exempted plans covering millions of people from this mandate—it should exempt Wheaton too.”

There are currently 88 lawsuits challenging the unconstitutional HHS mandate. Becket currently represents: Hobby Lobby, Little Sisters of the Poor, Guidestone Financial, Christian Brothers Services, East Texas Baptist University, Houston Baptist University, Colorado Christian University, the Eternal Word Television Network, Ave Maria University, and Belmont Abbey College.

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 19 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. The Becket Fund recently won a 9-0 Supreme Court victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Melinda Skea, media@becketlaw.org, 202.349.7224.

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Media Advisory: Oral Argument for Class-Action Suit Against the HHS Mandate Set for December 16, 2013

Washington, D.C.  Becket will represent GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, Truett-McConnell College, and Reaching Souls International in their class-action lawsuit before the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma in Oklahoma City. The class, represented by Reaching Souls International and Truett-McConnell College, includes 187 ministries that currently receive conscience-compliant health benefits through GuideStone, the health benefits arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. None of the ministries in the class qualify for the HHS’ narrow “religious employer” exemption, and all face enormous fines if they do not comply with the government’s mandate against their religious convictions. This is the second class-action suit to be filed against the administration’s HHS mandate.

What:
GuideStone Financial Resources and Reaching Souls International oral argument before the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma

Who:
Adèle Keim, Legal Counsel for Becket

When:
December 16, 2013, 9:30am

Where:
U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma
200 NW 4th Street
Oklahoma City OK 73102

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 18 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. Becket recently won a 9-0 Supreme Court victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

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U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Landmark Hobby Lobby Case

WASHINGTON, Nov. 26, 2013 – The U.S. Supreme Court today agreed to take up Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., a landmark case addressing the Constitutionally guaranteed rights of business owners to operate their family companies without violating their deeply held religious convictions.

The nation’s highest court accepted the federal government’s appeal of a June decision by the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals that a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate to provide potentially life-terminating drugs and devices in employee insurance plans places a substantial burden on the religious freedoms of Hobby Lobby, which is solely owned by founder David Green and his family.

“This is a major step for the Greens and their family businesses in an important fight for Americans’ religious liberty,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel of Becket and lead lawyer for Hobby Lobby. “We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will clarify once and for all that religious freedom in our country should be protected for family business owners like the Greens.”

In July, a lower federal court granted Hobby Lobby a preliminary injunction preventing the government from enforcing the HHS mandate requiring the family businesses to provide in the employee health insurance plan two drugs and two devices that are potentially life-terminating.

The Greens and their family businesses – who have no moral objection to providing 16 of the 20 FDA-approved contraceptives required under the HHS mandate and do so at no additional cost to employees under their self-insured health plan – then took the unusual step in October of joining the government in asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case, despite the family’s victory in the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“My family and I are encouraged that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide our case,” said Mr. Green, Hobby Lobby’s founder and CEO.  “This legal challenge has always remained about one thing and one thing only: the right of our family businesses to live out our sincere and deeply held religious convictions as guaranteed by the law and the Constitution. Business owners should not have to choose between violating their faith and violating the law.”

Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. will be argued and decided before the end of the Supreme Court’s term in June 2014.

There are currently 84 lawsuits challenging the unconstitutional HHS mandate. Becket Fund  represents: Hobby Lobby, Little Sisters of the Poor, Guidestone, Wheaton College, East Texas Baptist University, Houston Baptist University, Colorado Christian University, the Eternal Word Television Network, Ave Maria University, and Belmont Abbey College.

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 19 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. The Becket Fund recently won a 9-0 Supreme Court victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys handling Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., please contact Melinda Skea, media@becketlaw.org, 202.349.7224.

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Victory for Nonprofits

By Eric Baxter, Senior Counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

On November 21, in Zubik v. Sebelius, a federal judge in Pennsylvania became the first to rule on the HHS Mandate’s so-called “accommodation” for nonprofit religious organizations that, based on their faith, cannot provide insurance coverage for contraception, sterilizations, and abortifacients. The outcome? An order that the government cannot enforce the Mandate—even via the “accommodation”—against Catholic Charities and other social services and educational organizations in the Dioceses of Pittsburgh and Erie.

Continue reading “Victory for Nonprofits”

Becket Files Lawsuit for Belmont Abbey College Against Controversial HHS Mandate

Washington, D.C. – Today Becket filed a lawsuit on behalf of Belmont Abbey College, a Catholic liberal arts college founded by Benedictine monks, against the administration’s HHS mandate. Belmont Abbey College now faces hefty IRS fines unless it complies with the mandate’s requirement to provide its employees with contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs that violate its Catholic beliefs.

“Religious liberty, a fundamental right of all American citizens, has enabled our Benedictine community to found and operate our College according to the principles of our Catholic faith for one hundred and thirty-seven years. We cannot abandon these principles at the whim of the government without destroying the distinct mission of the school as well as the fundamental rights we enjoy in this country,” said Abbot Placid Solari, Chancellor of the College and Abbot of Belmont Abbey. 

Becket is defending Belmont Abbey College’s right to continue providing its employees with health benefits that are consistent with its Catholic faith.  Though the government allows “religious employer” exemptions from the mandate for churches and certain related entities, that exemption excludes most religious colleges, hospitals, and nursing homes.

“Belmont Abbey is yet another religious organization that the government has classified as ‘not religious enough’ for a mandate exemption,” said Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel for Becket for and lead counsel for Belmont Abbey College. “Any definition of “religious employer” that excludes monks instilling religion is baffling.”

Founded in 1876 by the Benedictine monks of Belmont Abbey, Belmont Abbey College strives to carry out a simple mission: “That in all things God may be glorified.” As a Catholic liberal arts college, Belmont Abbey upholds the teachings of the Catholic Church, including the respect for all human life. Participating in a system to provide services such as contraception, sterilization, and abortion pills would contradict the Catholic mission it seeks to advance. Belmont Abbey must now choose to either comply with the mandate and violate its convictions – or pay massive fines to the I.R.S.

“As with the 82 other lawsuits against the mandate, Belmont Abbey is being forced to pay for its First Amendment right to practice its religious freedom,” said Rienzi.  “The government has lots of ways to distribute contraceptives if it wants to—forcing monks to do it is completely unnecessary.”

Becket is also representing the Little Sisters of the Poor, Hobby Lobby, Christian Brothers Services, Guidestone Financial Resources, Colorado Christian University, East Texas Baptist University, Eternal Word Television Network, Houston Baptist University, Ave Maria University, and Wheaton College in similar lawsuits.  There are 82 lawsuits challenging the mandate.

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 18 years its attorneys are recognized as experts in the field of church-state law, and they recently won a 9-0 victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Melinda Skea, Communications Director, at media@becketlaw.org or call 202.349.7224.

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Becket’s Comment on DC Circuit Court Ruling on Gilardi

The following comment may be attributed to Adele Keim, Legal Counsel for Becket for Religious Liberty:

This ruling confirms what nearly every other court has said: individuals do not have to forfeit their faith to make a living, and the government is wrong to force family businesses to subsidize products against their deeply held religious beliefs. The Court called the government’s arguments to the contrary “empty, reflexive, and talismanic.” With thirty courts now reaching the same conclusion, and only five disagreeing, the government is plainly on the wrong path trying to force business owners to violate their consciences.

The Court repeatedly relied on Becket’s groundbreaking victory at the Tenth Circuit. And in his concurring opinion, Judge Randolph cited law professor and Becket attorney Mark Rienzi’s recent law review article on the question of religious exercise by for-profit enterprises.

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Media Advisory: Oral Argument for East Texas Baptist University and Houston Baptist University Set for November 11, 2013

Washington, D.C.  Becket will represent East Texas Baptist University and Houston Baptist University before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas at 10:00 a.m. on Monday, November 11, 2013. East Texas Baptist University and Houston Baptist University are both Christian liberal arts colleges in Texas challenging the HHS mandate. The court will consider whether the Christian universities should be required to provide coverage for abortion-inducing drugs against their religious beliefs.

WHAT:
East Texas Baptist University and Houston Baptist University oral argument before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas

WHO:
Eric Rassbach, Deputy General Counsel for Becket for Religious Liberty

WHEN:
10:00 a.m. CDT on November 11, 2013

WHERE:
Courtroom 11B, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 18 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. Becket recently won a 9-0 Supreme Court victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

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State of Alabama Joins Nun’s Network to Challenge Controversial HHS Mandate

Washington, D.C. Today, Becket and Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange joined forces with Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) in filing a new lawsuit challenging the controversial HHS mandate which forces the Catholic network to violate their religious teachings or pay crippling fines.  EWTN’s original lawsuit against the mandate was delayed for over a year by the government’s promise of a fix.  But the final version merely added another layer of bureaucracy while keeping the basic requirement that religious organizations cover contraceptives, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs against their consciences.

“Version 2.0 of the mandate is just as bad as version 1.0,” said Lori Windham, Senior Counsel at Becket. “It would still force the world’s preeminent Catholic network to betray publicly the very teachings it was founded to promote, and which it promotes on a daily basis.”

Thirty-two years ago, Mother Angelica, a cloistered nun, founded a small television network in her monastery garage with a mission to spread the teachings of her Catholic faith. Today, EWTN has become the largest religious media network in the world, transmitting programming 24 hours a day to televisions in more than 230 million homes, according to the organization’s website. As a Catholic network whose sole purpose is to spread the word of God, EWTN must now fight for the right to remain faithful to the very Catholic message it advances.

“EWTN has no other option but to continue our legal challenge to the mandate,” said EWTN Chairman and CEO Michael P. Warsaw. “The revised rules, published by the government in July, have done nothing to address the serious issues of conscience and religious freedom that EWTN has been raising since the Mandate was first published last year.  The government has decided that EWTN is apparently not religious enough to be exempt from the rule. It has still placed us in a situation where we are forced to offer contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs as part of our employee health plan or to offer our employees and their families no insurance at all. Neither of these options are acceptable. The mission of EWTN is not negotiable.”

After their original lawsuit was dismissed earlier this year, EWTN and the Attorney General of the State of Alabama joined Becket today in filing a new lawsuit against the unconstitutional contraception mandate.

“I am proud to stand with EWTN to oppose this unconscionable mandate.  Whatever we personally may think about contraception and abortion-inducing drugs, the government should not be in the business of forcing people to violate their religious convictions,” said Luther Strange, Attorney General for the State of Alabama.

There are 75 lawsuits challenging the administration’s mandate. Becket also represents the Little Sisters of the Poor, Hobby Lobby, Belmont Abbey College, Colorado Christian University, East Texas Baptist University, Guidestone, Houston Baptist University, Ave Maria University, and Wheaton College in similar lawsuits.

For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Melinda Skea, Communications Director, at media@becketlaw.org or call 202.349.7224.

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. Becket has a 17-year history of defending religious liberty for people of all faiths. Its attorneys are recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. They recently won a 9-0 victory against the federal government at the U.S. Supreme Court in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC.

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Hobby Lobby Asks Supreme Court to Take Its Appeal

Washington, D.C. — Today, Hobby Lobby asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review its case and decide whether the Green family will be required to provide and pay for life-terminating drugs and devices in violation of their religious beliefs. Last month, the government asked the Supreme Court to review the case, and today Hobby Lobby took the unusual step of agreeing with the government that the Supreme Court should hear the appeal.

“Hobby Lobby’s case raises important questions about who can enjoy religious freedom,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel of Becket and lead lawyer for Hobby Lobby. “Right now, some courts recognize the rights of business owners like the Green family, and others do not. Religious freedom is too important to be left to chance. The Supreme Court should take this case and protect religious freedom for the Green family and Hobby Lobby.”

Last June the Christian-owned and operated business won a major victory before the en banc 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which rejected the government’s argument that the Green family and their family-owned businesses, Hobby Lobby and a Christian bookstore chain named Mardel, could not legally exercise religion. The court further said the businesses were likely to win their challenge to the HHS mandate. Since then, courts in other parts of the country have ruled differently, setting up a conflict that only the Supreme Court can resolve.

The Court will consider the government’s petition and Hobby Lobby’s response next month. If the petition is granted, the case would be argued and decided before the end of the Court’s term in June.

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 18 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. Becket recently won a 9-0 Supreme Court victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Melinda Skea, media@becketlaw.org, 202.349.7224.

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Hobby Lobby petitions Supreme Court to take up birth control mandate case

The Hill’s Healthwatch, October 21, 2013

“Hobby Lobby’s case raises important questions about who can enjoy religious freedom,” Kyle Duncan, the lead lawyer for Hobby Lobby, said in a statement. “Right now, some courts recognize the rights of business owners like the Green family, and others do not. Religious freedom is too important to be left to chance. The Supreme Court should take this case and protect religious freedom for the Green family and Hobby Lobby.”

Church Benefits Provider and Ministries File Class-Action Lawsuit Against Controversial HHS Mandate

Washington, D.C. – Today Becket together with the national law firm Locke Lord LLP filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of three non-profit religious organizations who cannot comply with the federal government’s mandate that they provide employees with free access to abortion-inducing drugs and devices:

  • Reaching Souls International, a nonprofit evangelistic ministry dedicated to preaching the Gospel and caring for orphans in Africa, India, and Cuba;
  • Truett-McConnell College, a Georgia Baptist college dedicated to equipping students to make disciples of Christ among all the nations through a biblically-centered education; and
  • GuideStone Financial Resources, the benefits arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. GuideStone has been providing retirement and health benefits to Southern Baptist churches and affiliated ministries like Reaching Souls and Truett-McConnell College for nearly 100 years.

The class, represented by Reaching Souls International and Truett-McConnell College, includes over 100 ministries that currently receive conscience-compliant health benefits through GuideStone. None of the ministries that comprise the class qualify for HHS’ narrow “religious employer” exemption, and they all face enormous fines if they do not comply with the government’s mandate by January 1, 2014.

“The government’s refusal to treat these ministries as ‘religious employers’ is senseless,” said Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel for Becket.  “These people spend their lives teaching and preaching their religious faith—if they do not qualify as ‘religious employers,’ the government needs to get a new definition.”

The lawsuit is brought by Reaching Souls, Truett-McConnell, and GuideStone on behalf of all of the religious groups that participate in GuideStone’s health benefits plan and are not exempt from the government mandate to cover emergency contraceptives.

“The very purpose of the GuideStone plan is to provide ministry organizations with employee health benefits according to Biblical principles,” said O.S. Hawkins, GuideStone’s President and Chief Executive Officer.  “The government shouldn’t prohibit us from continuing in that ministry.”

The government allows exemptions from the mandate for churches and certain other religious ministry groups, but Reaching Souls and Truett-McConnell do not qualify because they do not fall within a narrow tax law category of ministries that are “integrated auxiliaries” of a church.

Founded by a Southern Baptist pastor and evangelist in 1986, Reaching Souls’ mission is “to reach Souls for Christ” by training, equipping, and supporting African, Cuban, and Indian pastors and evangelists as they preach the Gospel to their  neighbors and countrymen. Through their dedicated preaching, pastors and evangelists trained and supported by Reaching Souls have reached out to over 20 million people in Africa, Cuba, and India.

In addition to proclaiming the Gospel, Reaching Souls has rescued hundreds of orphans in Africa and India by placing them into loving homes. If Reaching Souls does not comply with the mandate by January 1, 2014, it will face $365,000 per year in IRS fines.

“Because everyone is made in the image of God, even the most vulnerable people in society should be respected, served, and loved. That’s why Reaching Souls is committed to reaching the neediest people with the Gospel and caring for orphaned children, and it’s why we believe that human life should be protected from conception. We want to offer a health plan that reflects those commitments,” said Dustin Manis, Reaching Souls’ CEO.

Located on 200 acres in the mountains of Georgia, Truett-McConnell is a Georgia Baptist liberal arts college whose mission is to “equip students to fulfill the Great Commission by fostering a Christian worldview through a biblically centered education.”  If Truett-McConnell does not comply with the mandate by January 1, it will face nearly $3 million per year in IRS fines.

“We teach our students what it means to think Biblically about all areas of life,” said Dr. Emir Caner, President of Truett-McConnell. “We can’t tell them that human life is sacred from the time of conception and then turn around and offer health benefits that are inextricably linked to providing abortion-causing drugs. Southern Baptists have a long history of standing up to government coercion in matters of conscience—it’s a tradition we’re honored to join.”

The lawsuit was filed by Becket and Locke Lord LLP in the federal district court in Oklahoma. This is the 74th lawsuit challenging the administration’s mandate. Becket is also representing the Little Sisters of the Poor, Hobby Lobby, Belmont Abbey College, Colorado Christian University, East Texas Baptist University, Eternal Word Television Network, Houston Baptist University, Ave Maria University, and Wheaton College in similar lawsuits.  This is the second class action file challenging the administration’s mandate.  The other class action was filed in federal District Court in Denver by Becket and Locke Lord LLP on behalf of various religious organizations participating in the Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust, a national plan established for Catholic employers.

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 18 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law.  They recently won a 9-0 Supreme Court victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or call 202.349.7224.

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Religious Sisters File First Class-Action Lawsuit Against Controversial HHS Mandate

Washington, D.C.,  — Today, Becket filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Little Sisters of the Poor, a religious order of Sisters dedicated to caring for the elderly poor (see video).

Without relief, the Little Sisters face millions of dollars in IRS fines because they cannot comply with the government’s mandate that they give their employees free access to contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs.  The Little Sisters are joined by their religious health benefits providers, Christian Brothers Services and Christian Brothers Employee Benefits Trust, and a class of other religious organizations facing similar fines, in the first class action lawsuit against the Mandate.

The Little Sisters of the Poor are an international Roman Catholic Congregation of women Religious founded in 1839 by St. Jeanne Jugan.  They operate homes in 31 countries, where they provide loving care for over 13,000 needy elderly persons.  Thirty of these homes are located in the United States.

“Like all of the Little Sisters, I have vowed to God and the Roman Catholic Church that I will treat all life as valuable, and I have dedicated my life to that work,” explained Sister Loraine Marie, Superior for one of the three U.S. provinces in the Congregation.  “We cannot violate our vows by participating in the government’s program to provide access to abortion inducing drugs.”

Although the Little Sisters’ homes perform a religious ministry of caring for the elderly poor, they do not fall within the government’s narrow exemption for “religious employers.”  Accordingly, beginning on January 1, the Little Sisters will face IRS fines unless they violate their religion by hiring an insurer to provide their employees with contraceptives, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs.

“The Sisters should obviously be exempted as ‘religious employers,’ but the government has refused to expand its definition,” said Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel for Becket and lead counsel for the Little Sisters.   “These women just want to take care of the elderly poor without being forced to violate the faith that animates their work.  The money they collect should be used to care for the poor like it always has—and not to pay the IRS.”

The lawsuit is the first of its kind both because it is a class-action suit that will represent hundreds of Catholic non-profit ministries with similar beliefs and because it is the first on behalf of benefits providers who cannot comply with the Mandate. The lawsuit was filed in federal District Court in Denver.  There are now 73 lawsuits challenging the mandate.

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 18 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law.  They recently won a 9-0 Supreme Court victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.” For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or call 202.349.7224.

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United States Appeals Hobby Lobby Decision to Supreme Court

Washington, D.C. — Today, the United States government asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take the Hobby Lobby case to determine whether the Green family will be required to provide and pay for life-terminating drugs and devices in violation of their religious beliefs. The government’s appeal makes it highly likely that the Supreme Court will decide the issue in the upcoming term.

“The United States government is taking the remarkable position that private individuals lose their religious freedom when they make a living,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel of Becket and lead lawyer for Hobby Lobby. “We’re confident that the Supreme Court will reject the government’s extreme position and hold that religious liberty is for everyone—including people who run a business.”

Last June the Christian-owned and operated business won a major victory before the en banc 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which rejected the government’s argument that the Green family and their family-owned businesses, Hobby Lobby and a Christian bookstore chain named Mardel, could not legally exercise religion. The court further said the businesses were likely to win their challenge to the HHS mandate.

The government’s petition comes the same day as a petition in Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius, another case involving a challenge to the HHS mandate.

The court will consider the government’s petition in the next six weeks. If the petition is granted, the case would be argued and decided before the end of the Court’s term in June.

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 18 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. Becket recently won a 9-0 Supreme Court victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact  Melinda Skea, media@becketlaw.org, 202.349.7224.

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Ave Maria University Files Lawsuit Over Controversial HHS “Accommodation”

Washington, D.C. —  Today, Ave Maria University joined the rising tide of lawsuits against the HHS abortion-drug “accommodation,” which still forces the Catholic university to violate its deeply held religious beliefs or pay crippling fines of up to $15,000 dollars per day, or more than $5 million per year. The new challenge comes just two months after the final rule was announced in June.

“The bureaucrats’ proposed solution does not solve anything,” said Eric Baxter, Senior Counsel at Becket, which represents Ave Maria University in this matter. “Ave Maria is still forced to participate in the government’s scheme to provide free access to contraceptive and abortifacient drugs and devices against their religious beliefs.”

Earlier this year, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida dismissed Ave Maria’s challenge while waiting for the administration to issue final regulations responding to the objections of religious organizations. Under the newly released regulations, organizations like Ave Maria must cause another organization to do the same thing they cannot do directly. They and their health care plan remain the central cog in the government’s scheme.

“Ave Maria cannot assuage its conscience by simply causing someone else to provide the objectionable services.  It cannot allow its healthcare plan to facilitate access to contraceptive or abortifacient drugs and devices in any way,” said Baxter. “Like other religious employers,  Ave Maria deserves a complete exemption.”

“It is a sad day when an American citizen or organization has no choice but to sue its own government in order to exercise religious liberty rights guaranteed by our nation’s Constitution,” said President Towey, Ave Maria’s President and former head of the Bush Administration’s Office of Faith-Based & Community Initiatives.

Ave Maria’s renewed lawsuit was filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida. The lawsuit challenges the HHS regulations as violations of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the First and Fifth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, and the Administrative Procedures Act. There have been more than 60 cases challenging the mandate.

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 18 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. Becket recently won a 9-0 Supreme Court victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becket.org, 202.349.7224.

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Christian University First to Renew its Lawsuit Over HHS Mandate

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Colorado Christian University (CCU) became the first non-profit organization to renew its lawsuit challenging the HHS abortion-drug mandate’s “accommodation,” which still forces the Christian university to violate its deeply held religious beliefs or pay crippling fines. The new challenge comes just weeks after the final rule was announced in June.

“The bureaucrats’ proposed solution does not solve anything,” said Eric Baxter, Senior Counsel at Becket, which represents CCU in this matter. “CCU is still forced to participate in the government’s scheme to provide free access to abortion-causing drugs and devices.”

Earlier this year, the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado dismissed CCU’s challenge while waiting for the administration to issue final regulations responding to the religious objections of non-profit organizations. Under those now-released regulations, organizations like CCU are excused from directly paying for abortion-causing drugs and devices only if they “designate” another organization to do the same thing they cannot do directly. They and their health care plan remain the central cog in the government’s scheme.

“CCU cannot assuage its conscience by simply requiring someone else to provide the objectionable services.  It cannot allow its healthcare plan to facilitate access to abortion-causing drugs and devices in any way,” said Baxter. “Like other religious employers, CCU deserves a complete exemption.”

CCU’s renewed lawsuit was filed today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. The lawsuit challenges the HHS regulations as violations of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the First and Fifth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, and the Administrative Procedures Act. There have been more than 60 cases challenging the mandate.

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 18 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. Becket recently won a 9-0 Supreme Court victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org, 202.349.7224.

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Federal judge grants injunction in Hobby Lobby’s lawsuit over birth-control requirement

Washington Post, July 19, 2013

Kyle Duncan, Hobby Lobby’s lead attorney, argued that requiring the company to comply with the mandate would be a burden to religious exercise. The U.S. Department of Human Services has granted exemptions from portions of the health care law for plans that cover tens of millions of people and an injunction for Hobby Lobby would be in the public interest and would not burden the government, he said.

Hobby Lobby Wins Preliminary Injunction

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, a federal court granted Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. a preliminary injunction against the HHS abortion-drug mandate, preventing the government from enforcing the mandate against the Christian company.  This victory comes less than a month after a landmark decision by the full 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled 5-3 that Hobby Lobby can exercise religion under the First Amendment and is likely to win its case against the mandate.

“The tide has turned against the HHS mandate,” said Kyle Duncan, General Counsel with Becket, and lead attorney for Hobby Lobby.

In an opinion read from the bench, the court said, “There is a substantial public interest in ensuring that no individual or corporation has their legs cut out from under them while these difficult issues are resolved.”

This is a major victory for not only Hobby Lobby, but the religious liberty of all for-profit businesses.

There are now 63 separate lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate. Becket led the charge against the unconstitutional HHS mandate. Becket currently represents: Hobby LobbyWheaton CollegeEast Texas Baptist UniversityHouston Baptist UniversityColorado Christian University, the Eternal Word Television NetworkAve Maria University, and Belmont Abbey College.

For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or 202.349.7224.

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Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 18 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. Becket recently won a 9-0 victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

Media Advisory: Hobby Lobby Oral Argument Set for July 19, 2013

Washington, D.C. – Becket will represent Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. before the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma at 9 a.m. CT Friday, July 19, 2013. This hearing comes after the full 10th Circuit granted a major victory to Hobby Lobby, ruling 5-3 that Hobby Lobby can exercise religion under the First Amendment and is likely to win its case against the HHS mandate. Immediately following that dramatic ruling, the district court granted Hobby Lobby a temporary restraining order against the HHS mandate. The court will now consider whether to grant Hobby Lobby a preliminary injunction.

Who: Kyle Duncan, General Counsel, Becket

What: Hobby Lobby oral argument before the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma

When: 9 a.m. CT (10 a.m. ET), Friday, July 19, 2013

Where: U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, Courtroom No. 304, 200 NW 4th St, Oklahoma City, OK 73102

Becket attorneys will be available for comment immediately following the hearing.  For more information or to arrange an interview with an attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or 202.349.7226.

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Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 18 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. Becket recently won a 9-0 victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

Hobby Lobby wins a stay against birth control mandate

Reuters, July 19, 2013

“There is a substantial public interest in ensuring that no individual or corporation has their legs cut out from under them while these difficult issues are resolved,” [Judge Joe] Heaton said at a hearing, according to the Becket Fund.

Abortion-Drug Mandate Not Affected by Administration’s Delay of Parts of Health Care Law

WASHINGTON, DC –    The following statement can be attributed to Kyle Duncan, General Counsel for Becket:

In a blog post yesterday afternoon, the Treasury Department announced that it will delay enforcing three sections of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) until 2015. This announcement says nothing about the HHS abortion-drug mandate, which has now been finalized and which continues to severely burden the religious liberty of millions of Americans. The HHS mandate is being challenged with increasing success in numerous lawsuits around the country.

According to the Treasury statement, employers will now have until 2015 to comply with two of the ACA’s technical reporting requirements, and will also have an additional year before they must pay the $2-3,000 per year “employer shared responsibility payments” imposed on large employers who fail to offer any health insurance at all.

The Treasury, however, does not announce any plans to suspend or delay the requirement that all large group employer health plans comply with the HHS abortion-drug mandate. The HHS mandate therefore remains fully in force.

The announcement also says nothing about the $100 per employee daily tax penalty, which is in a different statute and subject to an entirely separate reporting requirement not mentioned in the Treasury statement.

We will continue to defend the conscience of millions of Americans impacted by the HHS abortion-drug mandate.

There are now 62 separate lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate. Becket led the charge against the unconstitutional HHS mandate. Becket currently represents: Hobby LobbyWheaton CollegeEast Texas Baptist UniversityHouston Baptist UniversityColorado Christian University, the Eternal Word Television NetworkAve Maria University, and Belmont Abbey College.

 

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 18 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. Becket recently won a 9-0 victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

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For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or call 202.349.7224.

A Question of Priorities

By Adèle Keim, Legal Counsel

In a blog post yesterday afternoon, the Treasury Department announced that it will delay enforcing major aspects of the ACA “employer mandate” until 2015 in order to accommodate employers’ feedback about “the complexity of the requirements and the need for more time to implement them effectively.” As Becket’s General Counsel Kyle Duncan notes here, the Administration’s latest announcement says nothing about the HHS contraceptive/abortifacent mandate, which remains fully in force and still carries crippling fines. But the blog post does raise an interesting question: what are we to think about an administration that is prepared “to adapt and to be flexible” when businesses complain about administrative burdens, but will not give an inch when their religious liberty is at stake?

Judge: Hobby Lobby won’t have to pay fines

USA Today, June 29, 2013

“The opinion makes it very clear what is a valid religious belief and what is not,” said Emily Hardman, spokeswoman for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. The group is representing the companies and their owners, the Green family.

Final HHS Rule Fails to Protect Constitutional Rights of Millions of Americans

WASHINGTON, DC – In response to today’s final regulation on the Health and Human Services Mandate, Eric Rassbach, Deputy General Counsel for Becket provided the following statement:

“Unfortunately the final rule announced today is the same old, same old. As we said when the proposed rule was issued, this doesn’t solve the religious conscience problem because it still makes our non-profit clients the gatekeepers to abortion and provides no protection to religious businesses” says Eric Rassbach, Deputy General Counsel for Becket. “The easy way to resolve this would have been to exempt sincere religious employers completely, as the Constitution requires. Instead this issue will have to be decided in court.”

The final rule fails to fix the HHS employer mandate’s fundamental problems:

  • Non-profit religious employers are still dragooned into acting as gatekeepers to abortion
  • Self-insured religious groups must hire administrators that pay for abortifacients and contraceptives
  • Religious business owners still have to provide abortion-inducing drugs or pay up to millions of dollars in fines

“When it comes to religious liberty, the Department of Health and Human Services is acting like a kid who doesn’t want to eat his lima beans. Our Constitution and laws require them to protect religious exercise, but they really don’t want to, so they are trying every trick in the book to avoid doing so. But we will keep suing until the courts make HHS comply with its obligations” says Rassbach.

Becket led the charge against the unconstitutional HHS mandate. Becket currently represents: Hobby Lobby, Wheaton College, East Texas Baptist University, Houston Baptist University, Colorado Christian University, the Eternal Word Television Network, Ave Maria University, and Belmont Abbey College.

 

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 18 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. Becket recently won a 9-0 victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

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For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or call 202.349.7224.

Hobby Lobby Gets 11th Hour Victory Against the Mandate

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, for the first time, a federal court has ordered the government not to enforce the HHS abortion-drug mandate against Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. The ruling comes just one day after a dramatic 168-page opinion from the en banc 10th Circuit recognizing that business owners have religious liberty rights. This was the first definitive federal appellate ruling against the HHS mandate.

“Hobby Lobby and the Green family faced the terrible choice of violating their faith or paying massive fines starting this Monday morning,” said Kyle Duncan, General Counsel with Becket, who represents Hobby Lobby. “We are delighted that both the 10th Circuit and the district court have spared them from this unjust burden on their religious freedom.”

In its landmark opinion yesterday, the 10th Circuit majority found that “no one” – not even the government – “disputes the sincerity of Hobby Lobby’s religious beliefs.” The court ruled that denying them the protection of federal law just because they are a profit-making business “would conflict with the Supreme Court’s free exercise precedent.”

Today, following the 10th Circuit ruling, the trial court granted Hobby Lobby a temporary restraining order against the HHS mandate.  Further proceedings are scheduled for July 19, 2013, in Oklahoma City.

There are now 60 separate lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate. Becket led the charge against the unconstitutional HHS mandate. Becket currently represents: Hobby LobbyWheaton CollegeEast Texas Baptist UniversityHouston Baptist UniversityColorado Christian University, the Eternal Word Television NetworkAve Maria University, and Belmont Abbey College.

 

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 18 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. Becket recently won a 9-0 victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

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For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or call 202.349.7224.

VICTORY: 10th Circuit Overturns Denial of Hobby Lobby Injunction

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the en banc 10th Circuit Court of Appeals granted a major victory to Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., by reversing and remanding the district court’s erroneous ruling.  The circuit court returned the case to the district court with instruction to consider whether to grant Hobby Lobby a preliminary injunction. 

“Today marks a milestone in Hobby Lobby’s fight for religious liberty,” said Kyle Duncan, General Counsel for Becket. “This is a tremendous victory not only for the Green family and for their business, but also for many other religious business owners who should not have to forfeit their faith to make a living.”

The 10th Circuit sent the case back to the district court for swift resolution of the injunction proceeding.  The court reasoned Hobby Lobby has, “established a likelihood of success that their rights under this statute are substantially burdened by the contraceptive-coverage requirement, and have established an irreparable harm. But we remand the case to the district court for further proceedings on two of the remaining factors governing the grant or denial of a preliminary injunction.”

“We are encouraged by today’s decision from the 10th Circuit,” said David Green, founder and CEO of Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.  “My family and I believe very strongly in our conviction that life begins at conception, and the emergency contraceptives that we would be forced to provide in our employee health plan under this mandate are contrary to that conviction. We believe that business owners should not have to be forced to choose between following their faith and following the law. We will continue to fight for our religious freedom, and we appreciate the prayers of support we have received.”

Founded in an Oklahoma City garage in 1972, the Green family has grown Hobby Lobby from one 300-square-foot retail space into more than 500 stores in over 40 states. “It is by God’s grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has endured,” said Green. “Therefore we seek to honor God by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles.”

Hobby Lobby is the largest business to file a lawsuit against the HHS mandate. The Green family has no moral objection to the use of preventive contraceptives and will continue covering them in Hobby Lobby’s health plan. However, the Green family’s religious convictions prohibit them from providing or paying for the abortion-inducing drugs, the “morning-after” and “week-after” pills, which would violate their deeply held religious belief that life begins at conception.

The business’s lawsuit acts to preserve its right to carry out its mission free from government coercion.

There are now 60 separate lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate. Becket led the charge against the unconstitutional HHS mandate. Becket currently represents: Hobby LobbyWheaton CollegeEast Texas Baptist UniversityHouston Baptist UniversityColorado Christian University, the Eternal Word Television NetworkAve Maria University, and Belmont Abbey College.

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 18 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. Becket recently won a 9-0 victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

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For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or call 202.349.7224.

What EEOC gets and HHS doesn’t

The Greens are simply saying, “Leave us and our business out of this.” Not a difficult concept to grasp. What is puzzling is why the EEOC gets it, but HHS doesn’t.

By Kyle Duncan

Two weeks ago, the EEOC sued a Peoria trucking company for violating the religious liberty of two of its Muslim drivers when it fired them after they asked not to haul alcohol in their trucks. The EEOC found the trucking company “could have readily avoided assigning these employees to alcohol delivery” but instead “chose to force the issue” and fire them. However the case comes out, the EEOC is right about one thing: the Muslim drivers have a genuine objection to being forced to transport alcohol, because it is an act forbidden by their faith. It is beside the point that the drivers are not being made, say, to drink alcohol themselves or to hand out drinks at a party. As the EEOC correctly recognizes, transporting alcohol is also a practice the drivers’ religion forbids, every bit as much as taking a drink themselves.

Meanwhile, 600 miles away in Oklahoma City, another federal agency, HHS, has taken a narrower view of religious faith. HHS is arguing that a devout Christian family, the Greens, must use their family business, Hobby Lobby, to deliver a different product—emergency contraceptives—or face draconian fines. HHS fails to recognize that the Greens object, not only to using the drugs themselves, but also to providing them to employees through their health plan. The district court agreed with HHS, however: it found that the Greens’ real objection was merely to contributing funds that “might, after a series of independent decisions by health care providers and patients covered by [Hobby Lobby’s] plan, subsidize someone else’s participation in an activity that is condemned by plaintiff’s religion.” Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. v. Sebelius, 870 F. Supp. 2d 1278, 1294 (W.D. Okla. 2012). That decision is now before the en banc Tenth Circuit.

Imagine if the EEOC had taken the HHS mandate approach to the Muslim truck drivers. Instead of accepting their beliefs at face value, the EEOC could have said the drivers’ real objection was merely to furnishing transportation services that “might, after a series of independent decisions” result in “someone else’s participation in an activity that is condemned by [their] religion.” EEOC didn’t take that position, of course, because it would have rewritten the drivers’ beliefs. They object to their own coerced participation in delivering alcohol, not to whether other people drink it. They are simply saying, “Leave us and our trucks out of this.”

The Green family is saying the same thing. They object to the government forcing them and their businesses to deliver a specific product against their consciences. They are not trying to limit anyone else’s freedom to use emergency contraceptives; they are simply saying, “Leave us and our business out of this.” Not a difficult concept to grasp. What is puzzling is why the EEOC gets it, but HHS doesn’t.

Kyle Duncan is General Counsel for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

Obama, God, and the Profits

Earning money doesn’t suddenly give the government the right to extinguish your constitutional rights.

By: Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

A surprising and public rift opened up last week between President Obama and his lawyers over whether profit-making businesses can pursue goals other than making money, including adhering to religious requirements.

In courtrooms across the country—including one yesterday in Philadelphia—Department of Justice lawyers told judges that profit-making businesses with religious objections to the HHS contraceptive mandate cannot exercise religion. Profit-making business apparently can pursue just one goal: making money. Business owners must check their religious values at the door.

Elsewhere in the country, however, President Obama offered the opposite message to a group of men graduating from Morehouse College. He urged them to forge careers in business, but to avoid focusing solely on profits. Instead, they should consider “what broader purpose your business might serve” by pursuing values other than profits, like “transforming a neighborhood.” The President’s comments echoed his remarks last year at the National Prayer Breakfast, where he proclaimed that leaving our “values at the door” would “abandon much of the moral glue that has held our nation together for centuries.”

The President is right and his lawyers are wrong.

Businesses act on principles beyond the pursuit of profit every day. Vegan markets refuse to sell animal products because they are ethically opposed to hurting animals. Some employers have long provided benefits to same-sex partners based on the moral view that doing so is right and just. Some investment funds refuse to invest in fossil-fuel companies because they view them as destructive. Businesses following moral, ethical, philosophical, and environmental principles are all around us.

Similarly, some businesses operate according to religious principles. The Hahn family, for example, are Mennonite Christians who run Conestoga Wood, a cabinet-making company in East Earl, PA. They have long followed the President’s admonition to consider the “broader purpose” their business might serve, and to avoid leaving their “values at the door.” Yet yesterday they heard government lawyers tell judges that because their company earns money, the Hahns cannot follow their religion while they work. The government seeks to impose crushing fines on the Hahns ($95,000 dollars every day) unless the Hahns will start violating their religion and paying for drugs that they believe cause abortions.

The lawyers have it all wrong. Earning money doesn’t suddenly give the government the right to extinguish your constitutional rights. The New York Times Company is a profit-making corporation, but it obviously has free speech rights. Many doctors provide abortions for profit, but of course the government could not stop them just because they make money. We don’t trade in our constitutional rights when we earn a living.

Of course this does not mean that we will soon see large publicly-traded companies claiming to exercise religion. A religious freedom claim requires a showing of sincere religious practice—which is easy for the Hahns, but virtually impossible for a large, publicly-traded corporation like an IBM, where control is shared among thousands of shareholders. This explains why all of the challenges to the Mandate have been by closely-held family businesses, and none have been by publicly-traded companies. Nor is there any risk that decisions in the Mandate cases will trigger a sudden spike in businesses claiming to exercise religion—the Supreme Court approved of religious exercise claims for sole proprietors more than thirty years ago, and such cases remain few and far between.

Nor does protecting religious exercise for people engaged in business mean that religious values must trump all others in our society. Religious claimants will still lose when the government offers actual proof that it really needs to burden the religious objector—something it has not done so far in the Hahns’ case or any of the HHS Mandate cases. The key is that the religious freedom claims will be determined based on whether there is a real religious exercise, and how strong the government’s evidence is in response—and not based on whether the people or organizations involved make money.

So the men of Morehouse can safely follow the President’s advice, secure in the knowledge that they do not forfeit their constitutional rights when they earn a living, and that they are allowed to pursue “broader purposes” while they do so.

And the President could help them in their pursuit by sending a copy of his commencement address over to the Department of Justice.

Mark L. Rienzi is Senior Counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a law professor at The Catholic University of America, and author of God and the Profits: Is There Religious Liberty for Money-Makers? (forthcoming George Mason Law Review, 2013).

Hobby Lobby Has Its Day in Court; Argues Case for Religious Freedom

Christian Post, May 24, 2013

Kyle Duncan, general counsel for The Becket Fund, argued the case Thursday for the Green family, who own Hobby Lobby and the Christian bookstore Mardel, in Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius, and the government was represented by the Justice Department. Each side had 30 minutes to present their arguments to the court.

Hobby Lobby lawyer encouraged by latest hearing

EWTN News, May 24, 2013

On May 23, Duncan argued Hobby Lobby’s case before the full eight-member panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Such cases are usually heard by only three judges of an appellate court. “The mere fact we were standing there before the entire 10th Circuit Court of Appeals is encouraging in and of itself… it’s a really extraordinary thing,” he explained.

Hobby Lobby argues case before federal judges

The Oklahoman, May 23, 2013

“Do you have any authority that a for-profit corporation can exercise religion? How does that work?” she asked Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing Hobby Lobby in the case.

Becket’s Statement Following 10th Circuit Hearing on Hobby Lobby

Following the en banc hearing before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, Becket has released the following statement:

“We are encouraged by today’s hearing before the full 10th Circuit Court of Appeals,” said Kyle Duncan, General Counsel for Becket and counsel on the case. “Being heard before all eight judges – rather than the typical three-judge panel – signifies the importance of the case and the arguments being made. We stand firm in our belief that Hobby Lobby should have the right to opt out of a provision that infringes on their religious beliefs, and we look forward to a favorable outcome.”

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all faiths—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 18 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law.

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Media Advisory: Hobby Lobby Oral Argument Set for May 23, 2013

Washington, D.C. – Becket Law will represent Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. before an en banc hearing of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on May 23, 2013. The full court will consider whether to halt enforcement of the HHS mandate, which forces Hobby Lobby, a Christian-owned-and-operated business, to provide and pay for emergency contraceptives, such as the “morning-after pill” and “week-after pill”, in violation of the religious beliefs of its owners, the Green family. The court announced on March 29, 2013 that Hobby Lobby’s appeal will be before the entire court rather than the usual three-judge panel.

What: Hobby Lobby oral argument before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals

Who: Kyle Duncan, General Counsel, Becket Law

When: Thursday, May 23, 2013, 2:00 pm MDT (4:00 pm EDT)

Where: Byron White United States Courthouse, 1823 Stout Street, Denver, CO 80294

For more information or to arrange an interview with an attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or call 202.349.7224.

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Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 18 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law.

Tenth Circuit Grants Hobby Lobby Full Court Hearing

WASHINGTON, DC – On Friday, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals granted Hobby Lobby’s petition for en banc hearing, agreeing to place Hobby Lobby’s appeal before the entire court rather than the usual three-judge panel. The full court will consider whether to halt enforcement of the HHS mandate, which forces Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., a Christian-owned-and-operated business, to provide and pay for emergency contraceptives, such as the “morning-after pill” and “week-after pill”, in violation of the religious beliefs of its owners, the Green family. The court also announced it will expedite oral arguments, with a hearing date expected soon.

“We are grateful that the court granted Hobby Lobby’s petition,” said Kyle Duncan, General Counsel for Becket. “Full court review is reserved only for the most serious legal questions. This case asks whether the First Amendment protects everyone’s right to religious freedom, or whether it leaves out religious business owners like the Greens.”

In December, a two-judge panel of the 10th Circuit denied Hobby Lobby’s request to temporarily stop enforcement of the abortion pill mandate. Now, nine 10th Circuit judges will hear Hobby Lobby’s case. Arguments are expected to take place this Spring.

There are now 52 separate lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate, which is a regulation under the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”). Becket led the charge against the unconstitutional HHS mandate, and along with Hobby Lobby represents: Wheaton College, East Texas Baptist University, Houston Baptist University, Belmont Abbey College, Colorado Christian University, the Eternal Word Television Network and Ave Maria University.

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 18 years its attorneys are recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. For more information or to arrange an interview with an attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org, or call 202.349.7224.

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Prominent Theological Seminary Joins Fight Against Abortion-Pill Mandate

WASHINGTON, DC – On Friday, Westminster Theological Seminary joined the throng of challengers to the unconstitutional HHS contraceptive-coverage mandate that forces employers to violate their consciences or pay large fines. Westminster, which is represented by prominent Houston litigator Ken Wynne, moved to intervene in Becket’s lawsuit on behalf of East Texas Baptist University and Houston Baptist University in Houston federal district court.

A leading Reformed Protestant seminary located in Pennsylvania, Westminster Theological Seminary has come alongside two other Christian universities with differing theological backgrounds to champion a cause that they hold in common. None of the universities can provide abortion-causing drugs to their employees without violating their consciences.

“This latest development is more evidence that this unconstitutional mandate violates the core beliefs of religious groups across the theological spectrum,” says Diana Verm, counsel for Becket Law. “We applaud Westminster Theological Seminary’s brave stand for its conscience, and we welcome it in the fight against government intrusion into its beliefs.”

There are 49 separate lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate, which is a regulation under the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”). Becket led the charge against the unconstitutional HHS mandate, and along with East Texas Baptist University and Houston Baptist University represents: Hobby Lobby, Ave Maria University, Belmont Abbey College, Colorado Christian University, EWTN, and Wheaton College.

 

Becket Law is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 18 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. Becket recently won a 9-0 victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

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For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or call 202.349.7201.

 

Nine U.S. Senators & Two Representatives: Religious Freedom Includes Hobby Lobby

Washington, D.C. — Last night, nine U.S. Senators and two U.S. Representatives, along with the Oklahoma Attorney General and 11 other key groups, filed friend-of-the-court briefs supporting Becket’s challenge to the HHS mandate on behalf of Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. The HHS mandate forces the Christian-owned-and-operated business to provide the “morning after pill” and “week after pill” in their health insurance plan or face crippling fines.

“While any brief by sitting members of Congress is significant, this one comes from members who originally supported the federal civil rights law—the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993—which is at the heart of the mandate challenges,” said Kyle Duncan, General Counsel for Becket Law. “The brief leaves no doubt that Congress intended to protect the religious freedom of those like Hobby Lobby and its founder, David Green, against federal attempts to force them to insure abortion-inducing drugs.”

The case is currently before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.  A hearing could take place as early as this spring.

Signed by Senators Orrin G. Hatch, Daniel R. Coats, Thad Cochran, Mike Crapo, Charles Grassley, James M. Inhofe, Mitch McConnell, Pat Roberts, Richard Shelby and Congressmen Lamar Smith and Frank Wolf, the Congressional brief states:

  • “Congress plainly wrote [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act or “RFRA”] to include corporations[.]”
  • The federal government “may not pick and choose whose exercise of religion is protected and whose is not.”

The federal government’s “refusal to apply RFRA . . . turns the law of religious freedom upside down. RFRA places a heavy burden on Government and protects religion by default. But the HHS mandate places a heavy burden on religion and protects Government by default.”

An extraordinary example of bipartisanship, versions of RFRA were introduced by then-Senator Joe Biden, Senator Orrin Hatch and the late Senator Ted Kennedy, as well as then-Congressmen Chuck Schumer and Christopher Cox. It drew support from groups ranging from the ACLU, the Christian Legal Society, People for the American Way, the Southern Baptist Convention and Concerned Women for America. RFRA was signed in 1993 by President Bill Clinton.

In addition, 11 other key briefs were filed on behalf of Hobby Lobby stores, including the State of Oklahoma, the Christian Medical Association and the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, to name a few.

Brief of the State of Oklahoma:

  • “Operation of the Green Family’s corporations in a manner consistent with the Green Family’s religious faith is no less worthy of respect and protection than is the religious faith practiced by church members through a church also organized as a corporation under Oklahoma General Corporation Act.”

Brief of the Association of American Physicians & Surgeons, American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians & Gynecologists, Christian Medical Association, Catholic Medical Association, National Catholic Bioethics Center, Physicians for Life and National Association of Pro Life Nurses:

  • “‘[E]mergency contraception’” [such as the “morning after” and “week after” pill] has the potential to terminate the lives of unborn children. Being forced to pay for the termination of a human life is just as objectionable as being forced to participate in the termination of the human life.”

Brief of Emeritus Professor of Law Charles E. Rice, Professor of Law Bradley P. Jacob, The Texas Center for Defense of Life and The National Legal Foundation

  • ”Just as a person who believes killing animals is morally wrong would reasonably think it wrong to give a gift certificate to a steakhouse, so a person who believes abortion is morally wrong could reasonably believe it wrong to provide health insurance that can be used to pay only for those goods and services the policy covers and that specifically covers abortifacients.”

Brief of the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions, Prison Fellowship Ministries, Association of Christian Schools International, National Association of Evangelicals, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance, The C12 Group and Christian Legal Society as Amici Curiae in Support of Appellants and Reversal

  • “Former Representative Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and several other pro-life Democrats voted for ACA based on their belief that Executive Order 13535 would protect conscience rights as to ACA’s implementation. Former Representative Stupak has stated that the Mandate ‘clearly violates Executive Order 13535.’”

Brief of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City

  • “Nadine Strossen, then president of the ACLU, testified in support of RFRA, noting that the statute safeguarded ‘such familiar practices as. . . permitting religiously sponsored hospitals to decline to provide abortion or contraception services’ to others.”
  • The notion that a federal court may don ecclesiastical robes and purport to tell citizens that they do not correctly perceive the tenets of their faith is entirely foreign to American legal practice and experience.”

Briefs in support of Hobby Lobby also include:

Becket Law is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 18 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. Becket recently won a 9-0 victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

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 For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or call 202.349.7224.

 

*Photo Credit: National Archives.  Used by permission.

Still Unacceptable and Unconstitutional

WASHINGTON, DC –  Today’s announcement of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the HHS mandate leaves the religious liberty of millions of Americans unprotected.

“Today’s proposed rule does nothing to protect the religious freedom of millions of Americans. For instance, it does nothing to protect the rights of family businesses like Hobby Lobby,” said Kyle Duncan, General Counsel for Becket Law.  “The administration obviously realizes that the HHS mandate puts constitutional rights at risk.  There would have been an easy way to resolve this—expanding the exemption—but the proposed rule expressly rejects that option.”

The proposed rule fails to fix the HHS mandate’s fundamental problems:

  • The proposed rule provides no coverage for family businesses like Hobby Lobby.
  • The proposed rule does not meaningfully expand the “church-only” exemption – which is the real relief that our clients are entitled to under our constitution.
  • For other religious non-profits, HHS proposes a convoluted “accommodation” that may not resolve religious organizations’ objections to being coerced into providing contraceptives and abortifacients to their employees.
  • Finally, the long-awaited rule provides no concrete guidance for religious groups that are self-insured.

“We are extremely disappointed with today’s announcement. HHS waited nearly a year and then gave us a proposed rule that still burdens religious liberty. It also gives no concrete guidance to self-insured religious organizations like Wheaton College. Given that today’s proposed rule was prompted in part by the D.C. Circuit’s order in the Wheaton College case, that is a remarkable and surprising omission,” says Kyle Duncan, General Counsel for Becket Law.  “We remain committed to protecting religious liberty until the Administration recognizes the conscience rights of all Americans.”

There are now 44 separate lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate, which is a regulation under the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”). Becket led the charge against the unconstitutional HHS mandate, and along with Hobby Lobby represents: Ave Maria University, Belmont Abbey College, Colorado Christian University, East Texas Baptist University, EWTN, Houston Baptist University, and Wheaton College.

 

Becket Law is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 18 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. Becket recently won a 9-0 victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

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For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Melinda Skea at becketlaw.org or call 202.349.7224.

Statements Regarding Hobby Lobby

“Following Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s decision on December 26th denying Hobby Lobby temporary relief from the HHS mandate to provide abortion-causing drugs as part of its healthcare plan, the company faced exposure to penalties beginning January 1.  Subsequently, Hobby Lobby discovered a way to shift the plan year for its employee health insurance, thus postponing the effective date of the mandate for several months.  Hobby Lobby does not provide coverage for abortion-inducing drugs in its healthcare plan. Hobby Lobby will continue to vigorously defend its religious liberty and oppose the mandate and any penalties.” — Peter M. Dobelbower, General Counsel – Vice President, Legal, Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. 

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Statement Regarding Sotomayor Opinion
For Immediate Release: December 27, 2012

“Hobby Lobby will continue their appeal before the Tenth Circuit. The Supreme Court merely decided not to get involved in the case at this time. It left open the possibility of review after their appeal is completed in the Tenth Circuit. The company will continue to provide health insurance to all qualified employees. To remain true to their faith, it is not their intention, as a company, to pay for abortion-inducing drugs.” — Kyle Duncan, General Counsel, Becket Law

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Hobby Lobby forced to ask Supreme Court to halt abortion drug mandate

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, a federal court denied a request to temporarily stop enforcement of the abortion pill mandate, which would force the Christian-owned-and-operated Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., to provide the “morning-after pill” and “week-after pill” in its health insurance plan, or face crippling fines up to $1.3 million per day.

“The Green family is disappointed with this ruling,” said Kyle Duncan, General Counsel for Becket Law. “They simply asked for a temporary halt to the mandate while their appeal goes forward, and now they must seek relief from the United States Supreme Court. The Greens will continue to make their case on appeal that this unconstitutional mandate infringes their right to earn a living while remaining true to their faith.”

The 10th Circuit judges denied the motion calling the religious burden to the Green family “indirect and attenuated.”

Founded in an Oklahoma City garage in 1972, the Green family has grown Hobby Lobby from one 300-square-foot retail space into more than 500 stores in 41 states. “It is by God’s grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has endured,” said David Green, founder and CEO. “Therefore we seek to honor God by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles.”

Hobby Lobby is the largest and only non-Catholic-owned business to file a lawsuit against the HHS mandate. The Green family has no moral objection to the use of preventive contraceptives and will continue covering preventive contraceptives for its employees. However, the Green family’s religious convictions prohibit them from providing or paying for the abortion-inducing drugs, the “morning-after” and “week-after” pills, which would violate their most deeply held religious belief that life begins at conception.

The business’s lawsuit acts to preserve its right to carry out its mission free from government coercion.

There are now 42 separate lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate, which is a regulation under the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”). Becket led the charge against the unconstitutional HHS mandate, and along with Hobby Lobby represents: Wheaton College, East Texas Baptist University, Houston Baptist University, Belmont Abbey College, Colorado Christian University, the Eternal Word Television Network and Ave Maria University.

Becket Law is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 18 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. Becket recently won a 9-0 victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

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 For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or call 202.349.7224.

Federal Court: Hobby Lobby must violate its faith and pay for abortion-pills

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, a federal court denied a request to halt enforcement of the abortion pill mandate which forces the Christian-owned-and-operated Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., to provide the “morning after pill” and “week after pill” in their health insurance plan, or face crippling fines up to $1.3 million dollars per day.

“We disagree with this decision and we will immediately appeal it,” says Kyle Duncan, General Counsel for Becket.  “Every American, including family business owners like the Greens, should be free to live and do business according to their religious beliefs.  The Green family needs relief now and we will seek it immediately from the federal appeals court in Denver.”

The court did not question that the Green family has sincere religious beliefs forbidding them from participating in abortion.  The court ruled, however, that those beliefs were only “indirectly” burdened by the mandate’s requirement that they provide free coverage for specific, abortion-inducing drugs in Hobby Lobby’s self-funded insurance plan.

Founded in an Oklahoma City garage in 1972, the Green family has grown Hobby Lobby from one 300-square-foot retail space into more than 500 stores in 41 states.  “It is by God’s grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has endured,” said David Green, Founder and CEO.  “Therefore we seek to honor God by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles.”

Hobby Lobby is the largest and first non-Catholic-owned business to file a lawsuit against the HHS mandate.  The Green family has no moral objection to the use of preventive contraceptives and will continue covering preventive contraceptives for its employees. However, the Green family’s religious convictions prohibit them from providing or paying for the abortion-inducing drugs, the “morning after” and “week after” pills, which would violate their most deeply held religious belief that life begins at conception.

The business’s lawsuit acts to preserve its right to carry out its mission free from government coercion.

There are now 40 separate lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate, which is a regulation under the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”). Becket led the charge against the unconstitutional HHS mandate, and along with Hobby Lobby represents: Wheaton College, East Texas Baptist University, Houston Baptist University, Belmont Abbey College, Colorado Christian University, the Eternal Word Television Network, and Ave Maria University.

 

Becket Law is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 18 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. Becket recently won a 9-0 victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

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For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or call 202.349.7224.

 

Federal Appeals Court Hands Victory to Religious Colleges, Commands HHS to Act Quickly to Fix Mandate

Washington, D.C. — Today, a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. handed Wheaton College and Belmont Abbey College a major victory in their challenges to the HHS mandate.  Last summer, two lower courts had dismissed the Colleges’ cases as premature.  Today, the appellate court reinstated those cases, and ordered the Obama Administration to report back every 60 days—starting in mid-February—until the Administration makes good on its promise to issue a new rule that protects the Colleges’ religious freedom.  The new rule must be issued by March 31, 2013.

“The D.C. Circuit has now made it clear that government promises and press conferences are not enough to protect religious freedom,” said Kyle Duncan, General Counsel of Becket Law, who argued the case.  “The court is not going to let the government slide by on non-binding promises to fix the problem down the road.”

The court based its decision on two concessions that government lawyers made in open court. First, the government promised “it would never enforce [the mandate] in its current form” against Wheaton, Belmont Abbey or other similarly situated religious groups.  Second, the government promised it would publish a proposed new rule “in the first quarter of 2013” and would finalize it by next August. The administration made both concessions under intense questioning by the appellate judges.  The court deemed the concessions a “binding commitment” and has retained jurisdiction over the case to ensure the government follows through.

“This is a win not just for Belmont Abbey and Wheaton, but for all religious non-profits challenging the mandate,” said Duncan. “The government has now been forced to promise that it will never enforce the current mandate against religious employers like Wheaton and Belmont Abbey and a federal appellate court will hold the government to its word.”

While the government had previously announced plans to create a new rule, it has not yet taken the steps necessary to make that promise legally binding. Lower courts dismissed the colleges’ cases while the government contemplated a new rule, but the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit decided the cases should stay alive while it scrutinizes whether the government will meet its promised deadlines. The court acted quickly, issuing Tuesday’s order just days after hearing lengthy arguments.

Becket Law is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 18 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. Becket recently won a 9-0 victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

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Court rules in favor of Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York on HHS Mandate

Washington, D.C. — In a landmark ruling against the HHS Mandate, yesterday a federal judge ruled against the government holding that the supposed “safe harbor” was inadequate to protect religious organizations from suffering imminent harm.

“We are pleased the court recognized the significant harm that the mandate is causing right now,” said Eric Baxter, Senior Counsel for Becket Law. “Religious organizations that object to the mandate are subject to private lawsuits, as well as being faced with critical budgeting, and health insurance decisions in the face of millions of dollars in fines. Truly the ‘safe harbor’ is neither a harbor nor safe.”

The judge concluded that “There is no ‘Trust us changes are coming’ clause in the Constitution.”  The court further stated that “ignoring the speeding train that is coming toward plaintiffs in the hope that it will stop might well be inconsistent with the fiduciary duties that plaintiffs’ directors or officers owe to their members.”

There are now 40 separate lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate, which is a regulation under the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”). Becket led the charge against the unconstitutional HHS mandate, and currently represents: Hobby Lobby, Wheaton College, East Texas Baptist University, Houston Baptist University, Belmont Abbey College, Colorado Christian University, the Eternal Word Television Network, and Ave Maria University.

 

Becket Law  is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 18 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. Becket recently won a 9-0 victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

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For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or call 202.349.7224.

O’Brien Business Granted Emergency Relief from HHS Mandate in 8th Circuit

Washington, D.C. — Following yesterday’s 8th Circuit ruling in O’Brien v. HHS, granting temporary relief from the HHS Mandate, Becket urged the 10th Circuit to grant identical relief in their appeal on behalf of Hobby Lobby, a Christian-owned-and-operated business that in five weeks faces crippling fines of up to $1.3 million per day if they do not comply with the HHS mandate against their religious beliefs.

“It is now the case that every other court to consider the issue has granted business plaintiffs interim relief against the mandate,” said Kyle Duncan, General Counsel for Becket and counsel for Hobby Lobby. “The lower court’s decision in Hobby Lobby, denying relief, now stands alone. That erroneous decision should not be permitted to leave Hobby Lobby to face the enormous government coercion from which four other courts have now protected similarly situated plaintiffs.”

The lower court, which earlier this month denied Hobby Lobby emergency relief, relied heavily on the O’Brien dismissal in rejecting Hobby Lobby’s religious freedom claims.

“The 8th Circuit’s injunction now severely undermines that prior decision,” Duncan said. “Granting Hobby Lobby the same relief provided by the 8th Circuit will simply preserve the status quo and avoid forcing the Green family to choose between their faith and their livelihood while the important legal issues presented by this case are resolved on appeal.”

Hobby Lobby is the largest and was the first non-Catholic-owned business to file a lawsuit against the HHS mandate. The Green family has no moral objection to the use of preventive contraceptives and will continue covering preventive contraceptives for its employees. However, the Green family’s religious convictions prohibit them from providing or paying for the abortion-inducing drugs, the “morning-after” and “week-after” pills, which would violate their most deeply held religious belief that life begins at conception.

The business’s lawsuit acts to preserve its right to carry out its mission free from government coercion.

Becket Law is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 18 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. Becket recently won a 9-0 victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

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For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or call 202.349.7224.

Hobby Lobby Seeks Emergency Relief From Abortion-Pill Mandate

WASHINGTON, DC – Following yesterday’s decision denying its motion for preliminary injunction, Hobby Lobby appealed to the federal 10th Circuit Court of Appeals seeking relief from the abortion pill mandate, which forces the Christian-owned-and-operated Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., to providethe “morning-after pill” and “week-after pill” in its health insurance plan or face crippling fines up to $1.3 million per day.

The brief reads in part:

  • “[I]n less than six weeks, [the Green family] must either violate their faith by covering abortion-causing drugs, or be exposed to severe penalties—including fines of up to $1.3 million per day, annual penalties of about $26 million and exposure to private suits.”
  • “The district court accepted that the Green family engages in a religious exercise by refusing to cover abortion-causing drugs in their self-funded health plan. There was thus no question that the Green family engages in ‘religious exercise.’”
  • “[T]he Supreme Court has long rejected any distinction between “direct” and “indirect” burdens in evaluating whether regulations infringe religious exercise.”
  • “The family . . . sign[s] a Statement of Faith and Trustee Commitment obligating them to “honor God with all that has been entrusted to them” and to “use the Green family assets to create, support and leverage the efforts of Christian ministries.”
  • Their beliefs are exercised through the businesses in numerous, concrete, and public ways:
    • They make chaplains available to employees;
    • give millions from profits to fund ministries;
    • buy hundreds of religious ads every Christmas and Easter;
    • [t]hey monitor merchandise and avoid allowing their property to support activities they believe to be immoral.

“Every American, including family business owners like the Greens, should be free to make a living without forfeiting their religious beliefs,” said Kyle Duncan, General Counsel for Becket Law, which represents Hobby Lobby. “The Green family needs relief before Jan. 1, and so we have asked the federal appeals court in Denver to issue an injunction against the mandate.”

Yesterday’s decision by a federal judge in Oklahoma City did not question that the Green family has sincere religious beliefs forbidding them from providing abortion-causing drugs. The court ruled, however, that those beliefs were only “indirectly” burdened by the mandate’s requirement that [Hobby Lobby] provide free coverage for specific, abortion-inducing drugs in [the company’s] self-funded insurance plan.

Founded in an Oklahoma City garage in 1972, the Green family has grown Hobby Lobby from one 300-square-foot retail space into more than 500 stores in 41 states.

“It is by God’s grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has endured,” said David Green, Founder and CEO. “Therefore we seek to honor God by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles.”

Hobby Lobby is the largest and was the first non-Catholic-owned business to file a lawsuit against the HHS mandate. The Green family has no moral objection to the use of preventive contraceptives and will continue covering preventive contraceptives for its employees. However, the Green family’s religious convictions prohibit them from providing or paying for the abortion-inducing drugs, the “morning-after” and “week-after” pills, which would violate their most deeply held religious belief that life begins at conception.

The business’s lawsuit acts to preserve its right to carry out its mission free from government coercion.

There are now 40 separate lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate, which is a regulation under the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”). Becket led the charge against the unconstitutional HHS mandate, and along with Hobby Lobby represents: Wheaton College, Belmont Abbey College, East Texas Baptist University, Houston Baptist University, Colorado Christian University, the Eternal Word Television Network and Ave Maria University.

 

Becket Law is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 18 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. Becket recently won a 9-0 victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

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For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or call 202.349.7224.

Pending December Hearing, Religious Colleges Submit Final Brief to D.C. Circuit

WASHINGTON, DC – On Friday, Becket Law filed its reply brief before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, asking the Court to reinstate two HHS mandate lawsuits after the trial court held that the cases were premature due to the government’s one-year “safe-harbor.” This is the first time a federal Court of Appeals will consider the HHS mandate. The D.C. Circuit is set to hear oral arguments on the case December 14.

“The safe harbor’s protection is illusory,” said Kyle Duncan, General Counsel for Becket Law. “Even though the government won’t make religious colleges pay crippling fines this year, private lawsuits can still be brought, schools are at a competitive disadvantage for hiring and retaining faculty, and employees face the specter of battling chronic conditions without access to affordable care.  This mandate puts these religious schools in an impossible position.”

Wheaton and Belmont Abbey are not the only schools to feel the immediate harms of the government’s HHS mandate. In October, Ave Maria University filed a declaration in a separate lawsuit in federal court detailing the “excessive burdens and pressures” that are preventing the school from filling faculty positions.

On September 20, 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit consolidated Belmont Abbey College v. Sebelius and Wheaton College v. Sebelius in an expedited appeal against the HHS Mandate, which forces the two religious schools to violate their deeply held religious convictions or pay crippling fines.

Highlights from Becket’s brief:

  • “[T]he final rule challenged here is the law right now, and it is not up to the Colleges or this Court to predict the future. “ (P 4)
  • “The Colleges should not be forced to wager that the Departments will relieve the mandate’s burden on their religious exercise when—to date—the Departments have never acknowledged that the burden exists.” (P 16)
  •  “[T]he mandate is a final rule that presently applies to the Colleges and presently interferes with their budgeting, planning, and hiring.” (P 3)
  • “Yet instead of litigating the Colleges’ claims on the merits, the Departments have reacted to them with regulatory gamesmanship.” (P 2)
  • “The Departments cannot possibly meet [their] burden by pointing to a temporary one-year delay on government (but not private) enforcement accompanied by a vague, non-binding promise to fix it in the future.” (P 4)
  • “In short, delaying this lawsuit will burden the Colleges in numerous ways.” (P 27)

There are now over 40 separate lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate, which is a regulation under the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”).

Becket led the charge against the unconstitutional HHS mandate, and in addition to Wheaton and Belmont Abbey represents Hobby Lobby, Colorado Christian University, Houston Baptist University, East Texas Baptist University, the Eternal Word Television Network, and Ave Maria University.

Becket Law is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 18 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. Becket recently won a 9-0 victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

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For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or call 202.349.7224.

Court Hearing Set for Hobby Lobby: November 1, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – Following the filing of the last brief in the Hobby Lobby case, a federal judge will hear arguments on November 1,  2012 to consider whether to halt enforcement of the HHS mandate, which forces Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., a Christian-owned-and-operated business, to provide the abortion-inducing drugs, the “morning after pill” and “week after pill”, in violation of their deeply held religious beliefs, or face crippling fines up to $1.3 million per day.

WHAT:
Court hearing on Preliminary Injunction on Hobby Lobby Case 

WHO:
Kyle Duncan, General Counsel, Becket Law

WHEN:
November 1, 2012
9:00am CST/10:00am EST
(Check back here for any scheduling changes due to Hurricane Sandy)

WHERE:
US District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma
200 NW 4th Street, Courtroom #304
Oklahoma City OK 73102

Becket attorneys will be available for comment immediately following the hearing.   For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or call 202.349.7224.

Hobby Lobby is the largest and only non-Catholic-owned business to file a lawsuit against the HHS mandate.  The Green family has no moral objection to the use of preventive contraceptives and will continue its longstanding practice of covering these preventive contraceptives for its employees. However, it is in violation of the Green family’s faith to provide or pay for the “morning-after pill” and the “week-after pill,” believing that life begins at conception, when an egg is fertilized.

The business’ lawsuit acts to preserve the Green family’s rights to carry out their mission free from government coercion.

Becket Law is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. Becket has an 18-year history of defending religious liberty for people of all faiths. Its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. Becket recently won a 9-0 victory at the U.S. Supreme Court in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

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