Justice Department lawyers said in a brief filed Tuesday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit that the federal government would issue new regulations in the next month that will apply to all nonprofit institutions that say the faith with which they are affiliated is opposed to the use of most forms of contraception.
“The Wheaton College injunction does not reflect a final Supreme Court determination,” the brief said. “Nevertheless, the Departments responsible for implementing the accommodations have informed us that they have determined to augment the regulatory accommodation process in light of the Wheaton College injunction and that they plan to issue interim final rules within a month. We will inform the Court when the rules are issued.”
A senior administration official said the details of the rules are still being worked out. But it is likely that the Supreme Court’s order will shape the new compromise arrangement, and that nonprofit institutions will be able to write a letter stating their objections, rather than filing a form. That would leave the federal government to work out how those employers get access to contraception coverage.
In reply to this news, Lori Windham, Senior Counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, says:
This is latest step in the administration’s long retreat on the HHS Mandate. It is the eighth time in three years the government has retreated from its original, hard-line stance that only “houses of worship” that hire and serve fellow believers deserve religious freedom.
We look forward to reviewing the new rule and its implications for the 102 cases, including religious charities like Little Sisters of the Poor (see video), Mother Angelica’s Eternal Word Television Network (see video), and religious colleges like Colorado Christian University. Ninety percent of religious ministries
challenging the mandate have received relief from the courts, and we are hopeful the administration’s new rule will reflect the robust protections that have always been given to religious individuals in this country.
Religious ministries in these cases serve tens of thousands of Americans, helping the poor and homeless and healing the sick. The Little Sisters of the Poor alone serve more than ten thousand of the elderly poor. These charities want to continue following their faith. They want to focus on ministry—such as sharing their faith and serving the poor—without worrying about the threat of massive IRS penalties.
Kudos to the Obama Administration. It took them two years, more than 100 lawsuits, and a Supreme Court ruling, but they appear to finally be ready to acknowledge the conscience rights of religious believers opposed to the contraceptive mandate.