Three Religious Institutions Appeal to Supreme Court, Say They Will Fight to Protect Their Faith

Former Hobby Lobby attorneys appeal HHS Mandate on behalf of prominent religious schools forced to violate faith or pay millions in IRS fines

For Immediate Release: July 08, 2015
Media Contact: Clay Porter, cporter@hbu.edu, 281-649-3467

Washington, D.C. – Today two private universities and a seminary are asking the Supreme Court to protect them from millions of dollars in IRS fines that will be triggered if they refuse to comply with the infamous HHS mandate. Filing the petition today are the same two firms that won the Hobby Lobbycase against the government’s HHS mandate one year ago.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and former Solicitor General and leading Supreme Court advocate Paul Clement are filing the petition on behalf of Houston Baptist University, East Texas Baptist University and Pennsylvania-based Westminster Theological Seminary. The Supreme Court has already granted interim relief from the HHS Mandate to religious groups five times. The schools’ appeal makes it highly likely that the Court will decide whether religious universities will be required to provide contraceptive coverage in violation of their faith in the upcoming term.

“The government has already told thousands of businesses they don’t need to comply with the HHS Mandate,” saidDiana Verm, Legal Counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. “So why is it bullying nuns, religious schools, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters unless they comply? It makes no sense.”

In December 2013 a Houston federal court ruled in favor of the schools, yet last month the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals denied relief to Houston Baptist and East Texas Baptist Universities, and Westminster. Westminster is separately represented by Ken Wynne of Wynne & Wynne LLP in Houston.

“We didn’t go looking for this fight,” said Dr. Robert Sloan, President of Houston Baptist University. “But here we stand and can do no other. We cannot help the government or anyone else provide potentially life-threatening drugs and devices. The government has many other ways to achieve its goals without involving us. It ought to pick one of those and let us go back to educating our students.”

The Becket Fund continues to lead the charge against the unconstitutional HHS mandate, winning a landmark victory at the U.S. Supreme Court in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. It currently represents the Little Sisters of the Poor, Mother Angelica’s Eternal Word Television Network, and Colorado Christian University, along with many other religious ministries. Three other petitions challenging the HHS mandate have already been filed at the Supreme Court and more are expected.

“The Supreme Court should step in and tell the federal government that separation of church and state is a two-way street,” said Verm. “The state should not be able to take over parts of the church—including these religious ministries—just so it has an easier way of distributing life terminating drugs.”

The Court is likely to consider all of the petitions in late September or early October. If the petition is granted, the case would be argued and decided before the end of the Court’s term in June 2016.

For more information see The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including  Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Its recent cases include three major Supreme Court victories: the landmark ruling inBurwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 rulings in Holt v. Hobbs and Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, the latter of which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

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