Judge sides with religious groups in ObamaCare birth control mandate fight

A federal judge this week sided with three religious colleges and three Christian organizations in their challenge to the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate.

Judge Philip Brimmer, a George W. Bush appointee on the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, issued an order that permanently blocks the federal government from forcing the plaintiffs to cover sterilization drugs or contraception drugs devices, procedures, and related education and counseling in their health care plans.

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He said the groups have sincerely held religious objections and the provisions in ObamaCare violate their rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

The Alliance for Defending Freedom (ADF), which represented the groups in the lawsuit, praised the ruling.

“Religious organizations have the freedom to peacefully operate according to their beliefs without the threat of punishment by the government,” ADF Senior Counsel Gregory Baylor said in a statement, adding that the order "fully affirms that freedom and provides permanent protection from the mandate."

The six groups that brought the lawsuit are the Association of Christian Schools International, Samaritan Ministries International, Taylor University, Indiana Wesleyan University, Asbury Theological Seminary and ADF.

The government did not fight them in their request for a permanent injunction against the health care law and the court to rule in their favor.

Brimmer noted in his ruling that the plaintiffs, which included Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, conceded “that requiring employers with sincerely held religious objections to comply with the mandate or the accommodation process would violate RFRA.”