Becket Fund Argues Imminent Harm to College from HHS Mandate
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed its first brief in its appeal to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals requesting the Court reverse the judge’s dismissal of two HHS mandate lawsuits from Belmont Abbey College and Wheaton College. This is the first time a federal Court of Appeals will consider the HHS mandate.
Belmont Abbey College, a Catholic college, filed the initial lawsuit against the mandate. Now, more than 30 lawsuits have been filed.
In August, the judge, an Obama appointee, dismissed Belmont Abbey’s lawsuit as premature, declaring that the government’s “safe-harbor” provision protected the religious colleges from suffering any imminent harm.
“The safe harbor’s protection is illusory,” said Kyle Duncan, General Counsel for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty in a press release. “Even though the government won’t make religious colleges pay crippling fines this year, private lawsuits can still be brought, schools are at a competitive disadvantage for hiring and retaining faculty, and employees face the specter of battling chronic conditions without access to affordable care. This mandate puts these religious schools in an impossible position.”
Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit consolidated Belmont Abbey College v. Sebelius and Wheaton College v. Sebelius in an expedited appeal against the HHS Mandate.
The Becket Fund’s brief argues in part:
•“In sum, both Wheaton and Belmont Abbey have suffered, are suffering, and will continue to suffer hardship if consideration of their legal challenges to the final rule is further delayed.” (P 57)
•“Regardless of the Safe Harbor, the Colleges are now experiencing government pressure to violate their religious convictions, and suffering present harm as a result. Like any educational institutions, they must plan well in advance for their upcoming budget and hiring needs.” (P 13)
•“The mandate currently puts the Colleges at a competitive disadvantage in recruiting, hiring, and retaining faculty members and other employees.” (P 32)
•“[C]urrent employees at both institutions have expressed deep concerns about the possibility of losing health insurance, about the possible reduction in academic programming, and about increased costs passed on to them as a result of anticipated fines.” (P 32-33)
•“These harms are real and significant. For example, several Wheaton employees have expressed fear that, if Wheaton is forced to terminate their insurance coverage, they will not be able to afford health care for themselves or their families. Some of them may have to seek expensive medical treatments before January 1 to be assured coverage. Others face the specter of battling chronic conditions without access to affordable care.” (P 55)
•“The [government] cannot evade judicial review of the currently-binding final rule by vaguely promising to somehow accommodate the Colleges with some other rule at some other time.” (P 5)