Federal Court Reinstates Colleges' Lawsuit Against HHS Contraceptive Mandate

4798An appellate court on Tuesday ruled in favor of two faith-based colleges saying their respective lawsuits -- challenging a government mandate requiring they offer contraceptives and potential abortion-inducing drugs -- may move forward.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed a lawsuit on behalf of Belmont Abbey, a Catholic liberal arts college in Belmont, N.C. in November 2011. And in July of this year, the Becket Fund filed a suit on behalf of Wheaton College, a Christian university in Wheaton, Ill.

The D.C. Court of Appeals also ordered Tuesday that the Obama administration confirm its promise to issue a new rule that would protect the religious freedom of both Wheaton and Belmont Abbey colleges, and other religious universities.

"This is a win not just for Belmont Abbey and Wheaton, but for all religious nonprofits challenging the mandate," said Kyle Duncan, general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, representing both colleges.

The government required most businesses to comply with the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate by Aug. 1 of this year. Some faith-based organizations, including Catholic hospitals and dioceses, have a so-called "safe-harbor" and must comply by August 2013.

Wheaton did not originally qualify for the one-year reprieve. However, in response to the college's lawsuit, the government rewrote its one-year safe-harbor to include Wheaton and other religious schools, including Belmont Abbey, which now have until August 2013 to comply with the HHS mandate. This took effect on Aug. 15.

Lower courts then dismissed the colleges' challenges this summer saying their cases were premature.

Source: Citizen Link | Bethany Monk
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