LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced Michigan will be the lead state in an effort to defend religious liberty in three separate lawsuits filed by The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty on behalf of two colleges and a religious broadcasting network challenging onerous administrative health care regulations recently handed down by the Obama administration.
“We cannot compromise religious liberty. We cannot undermine constitutional protections. We cannot trample freedom of religion in the United States of America,” said Schuette. “This mandate is an unconscionable intrusion on religious liberty and undermines the constitutional rights of millions of Americans with deeply held beliefs.
“Not only will many schools, hospitals and charities be ordered to provide services that violate their conscience, but to add insult to injury, they will have to pay for those they find morally repugnant. This is a radical attack on the First Amendment that cannot stand.”
As described in The Becket Fund’s complaints filed in federal courts in the District of Columbia, Colorado and Alabama, the challenges relate to Obamacare regulations that force thousands of religious organizations to violate their deepest beliefs by mandating what the organizations must include in their employee health plans, or face steep government fines. Although the Obama administration has provided thousands of exemptions for other groups, including many large corporations, it has persistently refused to give the same accommodation to religious organizations exercising their First Amendment freedoms. Schuette’s office will coordinate the drafting and filing of an amicus brief in defense of religious liberty.
On January 20, 2012, the Obama Administration announced that it would not change its mandate forcing religious employers to purchase and provide health care services that violate their religious beliefs and moral convictions. The decision was announced in spite of concerns expressed by a wide spectrum of religious leaders and employers.
The cases challenging the rule are Belmont Abbey College v. Sebelius, Colorado Christian College v. Sebelius, and Eternal World Television Network v. Sebelius. A briefing schedule has not yet been issued in those cases yet, but Michigan expects to file its briefs later this year.
Schuette’s involvement in The Becket Fund cases is the latest effort to defend religious liberty for Michigan citizens:
- In 2011, Schuette file joined The Becket Fund to file an amicus brief on behalf of seven other states in support of religious liberty in a significant case involving the right of religious organizations to manage their religious employees without government interference. In January 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously (9-0) upheld the right of religious organizations to manage their religious employees without government interference in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission et al.
- Schuette also filed an amicus brief in support of Julea Ward, a former Eastern Michigan University student who is suing the university in federal court for violating her constitutional rights after she was dismissed from a graduate counseling program due to her religious beliefs. On January 27, 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th District agreed Ward had a right to trial and reversed the lower court ruling dismissing her case.