by Travis Weber, J.D., LL.M.
October 29, 2014
For the first time since the Obama Administration “tweaked” its HHS mandate “accommodation” this past August, a federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction blocking the government from enforcing the mandate on certain religious organizations. This is welcome news.
After the Hobby Lobby opinion came down, and after the Supreme Court issued its interim order in Wheaton College v. Burwell, the Administration revised it’s “accommodation” to permit religious objectors to HHS of their objection directly in addition to filling out the EBSA Form 700, if they chose. As we have argued before, however, this alternative step still leaves those with sincere religious objections in the position of having facilitated and played a part in matters which they believe are morally evil. The “revised accommodation” still forces these religious objectors to violate their conscience. Whether one government form is placed between them and the moral evil, they are still forced to take action which sets the objectionable activity in motion.
For this reason, we are heartened to see that Judge James Moody from the Middle District of Florida has blocked the administration from forcing its Interim Final Regulations on Ave Maria University, which had filed suit to avoid being forced to violate deeply held religious beliefs under threat of heavy fines. Judge Moody noted that the same consideration on which the 11th Circuit relied in granting relief for EWTN in Eternal Word Television Network, Inc. v. Sec’y, U.S. Dep’t of Health & Human Services, 756 F.3d 1339 (11th Cir. 2014) earlier this year was at play here – imminent harm to a religious organization which would be forced to violate its principles of conscience once the organization’s insurance plan year kicked in and the HHS mandate applied. Judge Moody thus granted relief for Ave Maria University. The school’s freedom of religion is protected – at least for now.