Judge Rules with Christian Colleges: The Mandate Violates RFRA


On Obamacare’s eighth birthday, most Americans probably wanted to blow out the candles and wish it all away. The courts have certainly tried. Almost 100 lawsuits into this miserable failure, Obama’s train wreck of a health care law isn’t just unpopular with the American people — but with judges too.

Ninety-one rulings into their fight for the abortion pill mandate, liberals have lost every case but three. For the pro-abortion Left, who’s used to the friendly turf of the courts, the drubbing speaks to just how bad the law is. And it shows no sign of slowing. This week, a federal district court knocked the Left’s winning percentage down another peg when it sided with four Christian colleges that objected to paying for pills and procedures that violate their faith.

After a five-year legal battle they should’ve never had to fight, Southern Nazarene University, Oklahoma Wesleyan University, Oklahoma Baptist University, and Mid-America Christian University finally got the news they were hoping for: the threat of government punishment is over. Judge Stephen Friot agreed that, “Plaintiffs have demonstrated, and Defendants now concede, that requiring Plaintiffs to comply with [the HHS mandate], to the extent such compliance contradict[s] Plaintiffs’ religious beliefs, violates their rights protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” Forcing these campuses to violate their faith would make them “suffer irreparable harm,” Friot wrote in his order, which granted the schools complete and permanent relief from the Obamacare mandate.

Our friends at Alliance Defending Freedom, who are representing these universities (and others), celebrated the decision now a half-decade in the making. “These universities no longer have to fear being forced to pay fines for simply abiding by the Christian beliefs they teach and espouse, and they are no longer required to fill out forms authorizing coverage for abortion-inducing drugs,” Senior Counsel Greg Baylor explained. “The government has many other ways to ensure access to these drugs without forcing people of faith to violate their deepest convictions.”

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Before President Trump, abortion activists could lean on the Justice Department to argue for the mandate in court. Now, that crutch is gone, and liberals are on their own to argue a losing case. The DOJ under this White House refuses to lift a finger to defend a policy as flawed and unconstitutional as Obama’s. If anything, President Trump only made the Left’s job harder when he broadened the pool of people who could take advantage of the mandate’s exemptions.

Unfortunately, the nightmare for religious liberty isn’t over yet. The only way to resolve that — and the laundry list of problems with the law — is to repeal it all together. And believe it or not, that’s still a possibility. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) hasn’t given up on conservatives’ top gripe, telling reporters Wednesday that he plans to take another crack at the bill he and Senator Bill Cassidy (R-La.) floated last year. “I’m just trying to get a product together,” Graham explained. “We’re talking to everybody.” Including the president. Asked if the White House would back another shot at repeal, deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said yes. “The White House fully supports the efforts of a broad coalition working to address the Obamacare disaster and increase affordable healthcare options for middle-class Americans.”

For the sake of American families and freedom, let’s hope they try.

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.

Tony Perkins is president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council. He is a former member of the Louisiana legislature where he served for eight years, and he is recognized as a legislative pioneer for authoring measures like the nation’s first Covenant Marriage law. (Via FRC’s Washington Update. Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.)
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