Belmont Abbey College was the first to sue the Obama administration over the HHS mandate last year. Following a setback where a judge, an Obama appointee,dismissed their case because the Obama administration had not yet amended regulations to better reflect religious objections as it has promised to do, Belmont Abbey College will be back in court Friday.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty on behalf of Belmont Abbey College and evangelical Wheaton College will be arguing before a three-judge panel on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that the government’s one-year “safe harbor” does not adequately protect religious employers from the mandate which forces the Catholic and evangelical institutions to violate their deeply held religious beliefs or pay millions in fines each year.
The Obama administration created the “safe harbor” to delay enforcement against non-profit religious organizations while the government “considered” some future “accommodation,” leading two lower courts to dismiss Belmont Abbey and Wheaton College’s lawsuits as premature. Some thought this was a delay tactic to push any decisions on this volatile issue until after the election.
There is some hope for religious liberty advocates in that last Wednesday, however, a federal judge in New York became the first to rule against the government on this issue, holding that the “safe harbor” and promised “accommodation” were inadequate to protect religious organizations from suffering harm. The court remarked that, “There is no ‘Trust us changes are coming’ clause in the Constitution.”
The Cardinal Newman Society and 15 Catholic colleges recommended in The Newman Guide joined in an amicus brief supporting Belmont Abbey and Wheaton.
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