WASHINGTON (BP) — Bible and Christian book publisher Tyndale House has filed suit against the Obama administration’s abortion/contraceptive mandate, asserting it is an unconstitutional violation of religious liberty to force the publisher to pay for drugs that violate its faith tenets.
The mandate requires employers — with few exceptions — to carry employee health insurance plans that cover contraceptives and drugs that can cause chemical abortions. The latter drugs often are called “emergency contraceptives” and can act after conception, even after implantation. They come under brand names such as Plan B and ella.
Tyndale is the publisher of The Living Bible as well as books by James Dobson, Tim LaHaye, Bill Bright and Josh McDowell.
At least 30 lawsuits have been filed against the mandate.
Churches and religious conventions are exempt from the mandate, but many religious organizations are not. That means many Christian colleges, hospitals and ministries must comply with the mandate, even though they may staunchly oppose abortion and/or contraceptives. The Tyndale lawsuit, filed by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), says the publisher opposes only contraceptives that can cause abortions. Employers that fail to comply face hefty fines.
The mandate was implemented by the Department of Health and Human Services after President Obama signed the health care law (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act). The law itself does not include the mandate language, although it gives the federal government the power to decide what should and should not be covered under the law.
“This action arises because the federal government has deemed devout publishers of the Bible to be insufficiently ‘religious’ to enjoy religious freedom in America,” the suit states. “The federal government is mandating that Tyndale House Publishers violate its and its owners’ beliefs by covering morally objectionable items in their health plan pursuant to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.”
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, says Tyndale and its owners “are Christians who are committed to biblical principles,” including the “belief that all human beings are created in the image and likeness of God from the moment of their conception/fertilization.” Tyndale’s owners believe the drugs “can cause the death of human beings created in the image and likeness of God shortly after their conception/fertilization.”
Controversy over the mandate has made its way into the presidential race, with Mitt Romney running an ad referencing the issue, saying “religious freedom is threatened.” His running mate, Paul Ryan, went so far as to say “I can guarantee” that the mandate “will be gone” if Romney is elected. Obama, meanwhile, has said the issue is not about religious freedom but about women’s health.
The mandate went into effect Aug. 1, but HHS gave all non-profit religious organizations until August 2013 to comply. Tyndale, though, is a for-profit company and ineligible for the extension. Its employees’ new insurance plan year began Oct. 1, meaning Tyndale is in need of immediate relief from the court, the suit states.
Tyndale — which has 260 full-time employees — functions as a thoroughly Christian organization, the suit states. For instance:
— One of its corporate goals is to “honor God.”
— It holds a weekly chapel service for employees.
— It opens business meetings with prayer.
— It sends employees on mission projects to support Christian mission organizations, paid for by the company.
— It contributes 10 percent of its profits each year to Christian organizations.
— Its trustees must affirm a statement of faith that proclaims, for instance, “there is one God, eternally existent in three persons.”
The HHS mandate provides an exemption for churches and church-like bodies provided they are non-profit and meet all four of the following criteria: 1) “The inculcation of religious values is the purpose of the organization”; 2) “The organization primarily employs persons who share the religious tenets of the organization”; 3) “The organization serves primarily persons who share the religious tenets of the organization”; and 4) The organization is a church, an integrated auxiliary of a church, a convention or association of churches, or is an exclusively religious activity of a religious order, under Internal Revenue Code 6033(a)(1) and (a)(3)(A).”
ADF attorney Matt Bowman said Bible publishers “should be free to do business according to the Book that they publish.”
“To say that a Bible publisher is not religious is patently absurd. Tyndale House is a prime example of how ridiculous and arbitrary the Obama administration’s mandate is,” Bowman said. “Americans today clearly agree with America’s founders: the federal government’s bureaucrats are not qualified to decide what faith is, who the faithful are, and where and how that faith may be lived out.”
Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).