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Bible Study Website Exempt From Contraceptive Mandate

SHERMAN, Texas (CN) - The operators of a Bible study website is exempt from the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive mandate as enforced compliance would violate its freedom of religion, a federal court ruled.

Insight for Living Ministries sought an injunction against the federal government to prevent it from requiring the company to provide insurance coverage that includes "preventative care" for its employees.

The company provides "biblical media resources" including online radio programs, according to the Insight for Living website.

The Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, subjects employers who do not provide such coverage to fines and penalties.

Exemptions are available for religious employers, employers with "grandfathered health plans," and those with fewer than fifty employees. But Insight for Living doesn't qualify for any of those exemptions, according to the ruling.

Employers may also qualify for an "accommodation" based on "religious objections," wherein the company's health insurance carrier or a third-party administrator pays for employee contraceptive services.

But Insight for Living says that accommodation won't work for them either because it means indirectly contributing to the provision of contraceptives.

A federal court in Tyler, Texas granted Insight for Living's motion for preliminary injunction last week, finding that the mandate to provide contraceptives is a burden to Insight for Living's exercise of religion.

"IFLM's position is that its religious beliefs prevent it from merely 'washing its hands' and allowing what it perceives to be a spilling of innocent blood. Of course, the regulations allow it to advocate its position on abortion as long as that is all it does," U.S. Magistrate Judge Don Bush wrote. "The government, to its credit, has attempted to find some middle ground between two diametrically opposed positions for which there is no middle ground, the right and sanctity of life versus the right to choose. Nevertheless, when the government superimposes itself as a referee in matters of religion, morals, beliefs, or privacy, it fails miserably."

The issue is a controversial one and the courts are far from done resolving it, the judge wrote.

"The court acknowledges that there is no easy solution to the problem addressed and that in any event the issue will be taken up by any number of higher courts before it is put to rest. At the hearing before this court, the government's position was advocated well," Bush wrote. "But in the end analysis, when the issue is a close one, the court will err on the side of the First Amendment which prohibits Congress from making any law impeding the free exercise of religion - whether that law has a direct effect or indirect effect on the free exercise of the same."

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