DALLAS — The U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion today, May 16, ordering the government to work out a solution in the contraceptive mandate cases that would actually protect the religious beliefs of objecting religious organizations, including GuideStone and the ministries it serves. The Court vacated the lower court decision that had gone against the religious organizations, and ruled that the government cannot fine the ministries as the cases proceed.
No ministries served by GuideStone have been fined; a temporary injunction has been in place since December 2013, preventing the government from enforcing the mandate or applying penalties against ministries served by GuideStone's health plans.
Churches and closely related auxiliaries of churches were exempt from the mandate from the outset and were not at risk of penalties.
"We are thankful, first and foremost, to the Lord for this decision," GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins said. "We appreciate the diligence of our legal teams in working through the legal and constitutional issues that were raised as well as for the men and women of the Supreme Court who took seriously their oaths of office. This is a good day for which we are thankful."
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents GuideStone in the case, called the development a victory for religious freedom.
"The Court has recognized that the government has changed its position," said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at the Becket Fund. "It is crucial that the Justices unanimously ordered the government not to impose these fines and indicated that the government doesn't need any notice to figure out what should now be obvious. There is still work to be done, but today's decision indicates that we will ultimately prevail in court."
Hawkins noted that the Affordable Care Act has created challenges for the health care industry as a whole, but GuideStone continues to work on behalf of its participants.
"The federal health care law continues to create challenges for all who provide medical plans," Hawkins said. "Despite the headwinds caused by regulations out of the law, GuideStone remains committed to providing high-quality and affordable medical coverage in 2017 and beyond."