Evangelical Group Ducks Contraception Mandate
(CN) - A Christian publishing house will not have to pay for its employees to use emergency contraception, as required by health care reform, a federal judge ruled.
Tyndale House Publishers, a company that prints Bibles and other religious literature, filed suit in October, challenging a provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that requires employers to pay for employees' emergency contraception.
The company and its founder, Kenneth Taylor, claims that the "mandate" violates their religious beliefs, and subjects them to heavy fines and penalties if they do not comply.
Specifically, Tyndale objects to "providing coverage for abortifacients," including Plan B, nicknamed the morning-after pill; ella, the week-after pill; and intrauterine devices, which it says can "cause the demise of an already conceived/fertilized human embryo."
It does not object to other aspects of women's health coverage as required by the health care reform.
The law grants certain exemptions to this requirement for nonprofit employers with religious objections. While Tyndale is a for-profit company, it is 96.5 percent owned by the Tyndale House Foundation, an evangelical nonprofit.
Tyndale has refused to offer full contraceptive coverage to its employees since the law went into effect on Oct. 1, 2012 and currently faces heavy fines for its noncompliance on religious grounds.
U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton granted the publishing firm a preliminary injunction Friday, finding that "the beliefs of Tyndale and its owners are indistinguishable. Tyndale is a closely-held corporation owned by four entities united by their Christian faith, each of which plays a distinct role in achieving shared, religious objectives."
"Christian principles, prayer, and activities are pervasive at Tyndale, and the company's ownership structure is designed to ensure that it never strays from its faith-oriented mission," Walton added.
Given the structure of the company, Walton found that the "corporation should be deemed the alter-ego of its owners for religious purposes."
Tyndale showed a strong likelihood of success on the merits and proof that it would suffer irreparable harm without a preliminary injunction, according to the ruling.
"The contraceptive coverage mandate puts substantial pressure on the plaintiffs to violate their religious beliefs against the provision of coverage for the three contraceptives at issue," Walton wrote. "Therefore, the requirement to provide such coverage directly burdens the plaintiffs' religious objection to providing such coverage."
He continued: "Because the defendants have failed at this stage to demonstrate why the plaintiffs in this case must be required to comply with the entirety of the contraceptive coverage mandate, the Court is forced to conclude that the government has not shown that the application of the contraceptive coverage mandate to the plaintiffs furthers its compelling interests. 'The [g]overnment's mere invocation of the general characteristics' of contraceptives as promoting public health or of their provision as equalizing access to health care 'cannot carry the day.'"