A federal court has granted an injunction protecting Protestant Christian Bible publisher Tyndale House Publishers from the Department of Health and Human Services mandate that requires it to provide insurance coverage for abortion-causing contraceptives.
U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton said Nov. 16 that the mandate “affirmatively compels the plaintiffs to violate their religious beliefs in order to comply with the law and avoid the sanctions that would be imposed for their noncompliance.”
The judge, an appointee of George W. Bush for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, said the government has not proven that mandating Tyndale provide the coverage furthers the government’s compelling interests in promoting public health.
“First Amendment rights are among the most precious rights guaranteed under the Constitution,” his decision said.
The Carol Stream, Ill.-based company has 260 full-time employees. It is the largest privately held Christian publisher of books, Bibles and digital media in the world. The 50-year-old business directs over 95 percent of its profits to religious non-profit causes.
The company provides its employees with some coverage for contraception, but objects to requirements that it provide drugs that may cause abortions.
The D.C.-based legal group Alliance Defending Freedom is representing the company and its president and chief executive Mark D. Taylor.
“Bible publishers should be free to do business according to the book that they publish,” the group’s senior legal counsel Matt Bowman said Nov. 16. “The court has done the right thing in halting the mandate while our lawsuit moves forward.”
The Obama administration opposed the injunction on the grounds that the publisher does not meet its religious exemption qualifications. That exemption applies only to non-profit organizations that primarily employ and serve people of their own religion, and that have instilling religious values as their primary purpose.
“For the government to say that a Bible publisher is not religious is startling,” Bowman said. “It demonstrates how clearly the Obama administration is willing to disregard the Constitution’s protection of religious freedom to achieve certain political purposes.”
The court’s opinion said that Christian principles, prayer and activities are “pervasive” at Tyndale and its ownership structure is “designed to ensure that it never strays from its faith-oriented mission.”
It noted that the company’s primary owner is the non-profit Tyndale House Foundation.
Legal challenges against the mandate are proceeding in federal courts across the country. There are at least 40 cases with over 110 plaintiffs, including Catholic dioceses, charities, universities, and health care systems. Several Protestant colleges and other businesses have also filed suit.
The suits contend that the mandate violates the U.S. Constitution and federal religious freedom protection laws.
While the Obama administration has proposed a broader religious accommodation, its details and acceptability to objectors are still unclear. The Obama administration has also fought against proposed legislation to broaden the religious exemption and President Obama’s re-election campaign attacked his Republican rival Mitt Romney for supporting the proposed exemptions.