Judge Reggie Walton, of the U.S. District Court in Washington DC, has issued an injunction against the department of Health and Human Services, ordering them not to enforce the HHS mandate against Tyndale House Publishers. Tyndale House Publishers had sued the HHS over the mandate requiring them to violate their faith by providing abortion-inducing drugs in employee health plans. Tyndale House becomes the first non-Catholic business to gain an injunction against the HHS.
Tyndale House was represented by attorneys from the Alliance Defending Freedom. The Obama Department of Justice attorneys argued that Tyndale House, a Christian publisher of bibles and religious books, wasn’t a religious organization.
There are a few interesting points from the court order.
The court found a “crucial distinction” between the Tyndale case and the O’Brien case (decided against O’Brien and for HHS), because of how insurance was provided. In O’Brien’s case, policies were administered by the insurance company, while Tyndale is self-insured and provides coverage directly.
This court disagreed with the court in the O’Brien case about “parsing a plaintiff’s religious beliefs for inconsistency,” writing that the Supreme Court has warned against this. This court said that “to hold that the plaintiff’s belief regarding direct coverage of the contraceptives at issue requires the plaintiffs to also object to contributing to federal programs that provide the same contraceptives is to engage in exactly the kind of impermissible interrogation of religious beliefs that the Supreme Court warned against.” Here is a judge who understands religious freedom.
The defendant (represented by DOJ) claimed that there was a compelling interests regarding the contraceptive coverage mandate, but this court found that the defendants did not show that application of the HHS mandate to this plaintiff furthers the compelling interests. The defendants did not prove, to this judge, that forcing this plaintiff to provide the specific contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs to employees would further the compelling interest.
The judge wrote that there was “arguably a public interest” in the uniform application of the ACA and HHS mandate, but that there is “undoubtedly” an interest in protecting religious freedom under the First Amendment and RFRA.
This is a well-thought out opinion, worth taking the time to read. The judge’s reasoning on the RFRA are clear and cogent. Judge Walton understands of the importance of the First Amendment versus the nebulous “compelling interest” in enforcing a mandate for which the Obama administration has already granted numerous exemptions.