DALLAS — New “interim final rules” issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Friday still discriminate among religious groups that object to the government’s scheme to provide all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptives, which include abortion-causing drugs and devices. GuideStone, through its church health plan, offers 16 of 20 FDA-approved contraceptives, objecting to four which can cause abortions to occur. The government’s regulations continue to discriminate between churches, which are completely exempt from providing any contraceptives, and other religious ministries, which must comply with a complex “accommodation” scheme or face massive penalties.
GuideStone launched litigation against the federal government in 2013 over the abortifacient mandate as it relates to church health plans. GuideStone was one of the first organizations in the nation to file a class action to protect the wide spectrum of ministry organizations in its church health plan. Reaching Souls International and Truett-McConnell College are an integral part of this litigation on behalf of religious non-profit employers in the plan. According to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents GuideStone in its case, more than 50 cases with 126 plaintiffs in the non-profit sector have been filed against the HHS mandate.
GuideStone received a temporary injunction late in 2013 protecting GuideStone and the ministries it serves from penalties under the abortifacient mandate. The Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit has set oral arguments for 9 a.m. Monday, September 29, in Denver regarding this injunction.
“We are highly disappointed that once again, the government is discriminating between churches and religious ministries like Reaching Souls International and Truett-McConnell College,” said GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins. “When it comes to protecting religious conscience from government coercion, the government should treat religious organizations with equal respect."