Bible and Christian book publisher Tyndale House Publishers believes in the words it prints and sells to its customers. And on Friday a federal judge agreed the company has a right to conduct business according to those beliefs and without government interference.
U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton granted a preliminary injunction sought by Tyndale House, which will temporarily prevent the Obama administration from enforcing its contraceptive mandate under the new healthcare law on the Carol Stream, Ill., publishing company.
“The contraceptive coverage mandate affirmatively compels the plaintiffs to violate their religious beliefs in order to comply with the law and avoid the sanctions that would be imposed for their noncompliance,” wrote Walton.
Walton acknowledged that the federal government has broad, compelling interests in promoting public health, but he said the question “is whether the government has shown that the application of the contraceptive coverage mandate to the plaintiffs furthers those compelling interests,” underlying “to the plaintiffs” in the text.
Walton said that the government hasn’t offered any proof that mandatory insurance for the specific types of contraceptives that Tyndale objects to furthers the government’s compelling interests.
The mandate would force Tyndale House to offer contraceptive coverage to its 260 employees that would include abortifacients such as Plan B and Ella and intrauterine devices.
Unlike other lawsuits filed by religious groups over the mandate, Tyndale House’s case was unique and had immediate implications, as the publishing company was already subject to the law. Tyndale House does not fall under the federal government’s “religious employer” exemption to the mandate, which applies only to churches, and as a for-profit company, it was not eligible for a compliance delay until August 2013 offered by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for religious non-profit groups. (Although Tyndale is a for-profit company, the Tyndale House Foundation, a nonprofit organization that gives its profits away, owns it.)
Matthew S. Bowman, a lawyer for Alliance Defending Freedom, which brought the suit last month on behalf of Tyndale House and its CEO Mark D. Taylor (see “The 31st lawsuit,” by Emily Belz, Oct. 3), said in an email to the Associated Press that Bible publishers “should be free to do business according to the Book that they publish.”
He added, “The Obama administration is not entitled to disregard religious freedom.”
HHS declined to comment, citing the ongoing litigation.
Judge Walton ordered the two parties to appear in court again on a date yet to be determined, when arguments would be heard over whether to make the injunction permanent.