GuideStone injunction blocks abortion mandate
UPDATED 9:45 p.m. Central time, Dec. 20
OKLAHOMA CITY (BP) -- Federal District Judge Timothy DeGiusti issued a preliminary injunction Dec. 20 against the federal government's mandate that requires employers, including many religiously affiliated ones, to provide abortion-causing drugs and devices.
Although churches and closely related ministries are exempt from the mandate, many Christian universities, children's homes and other ministries were not exempted, and instead were in danger of being forced to provide abortion-causing drugs and devices through a poorly conceived "accommodation" or incur crippling penalties.
DeGiusti's ruling means organizations that use GuideStone's health care plans, now or in the future, will be protected from participating in providing abortion-causing drugs for the foreseeable future. A trial date to make a final decision has not yet been set.
O.S. Hawkins, president of GuideStone Financial Resources, said the ruling by the Oklahoma City federal judge "reflects common-sense legal principles, respects the rights of religious institutions to provide benefits consistent with their convictions, and provides needed relief from the government's attempt to co-opt ministry health plans."
"We appreciate Judge DeGiusti's timely protection of religious liberty and give thanks to God for this victory and for the many thousands who have made this a matter of prayer," Hawkins said.
Hawkins noted that the injunction only concerns abortion-inducing drugs and devices, not other contraceptives.
"While our Catholic friends oppose contraceptive in most every form -- a belief that they should be free to exercise under the First Amendment -- our plans reflect the convictions of most Southern Baptists and evangelicals that the use of contraceptives is a matter of personal conscience," Hawkins said. "Our plans will continue to provide coverage for the vast majority of FDA-approved drugs that do not cause abortions."
Russell D. Moore, president of the SBC's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said the injunction is a "first step toward a historic win for religious liberty."
"A government that can coerce the conscience is a government that has overstepped its God-appointed bounds," Moore said. "We are thankful for Guidestone and the gospel grit of President O.S. Hawkins. We're still early in this fight but this is good news."
The ruling also encompasses Truett-McConnell College, a Georgia Baptist Convention-affiliated school, and Reaching Souls International, an Oklahoma-based missions organization.
"We are pleased to see that Judge DeGiusti, along with many other courts, is recognizing these mandates go too far," said Emir Caner, Truett-McConnell's president. "We join with our partners in ministry at Reaching Souls and GuideStone in celebrating this ruling and praising the Lord for this outcome."
Dustin Manis, CEO of Reaching Souls International, said the ruling "protects our ministry from this offensive, objectionable and onerous requirement. We pray this injunction will lead to an eventual full repeal of the abortion-drug mandate and continued protections for religious organizations under the First Amendment."
This case is one of nearly 90 lawsuits brought against the abortion-drug mandate. Hawkins said Christians should continue to pray for these cases as they wind through the courts.
The Dallas law firm Locke Lord LLP filed the lawsuit in conjunction with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. The case is GuideStone v. Sebelius. Kathleen Sebelius is the HHS secretary.
"Whether the cases relate to family businesses like Hobby Lobby or for nonprofit ministries like GuideStone, the religious freedom concerns cannot be overstated," Hawkins said. "It's time for Christians to stay informed, get involved and pray for wisdom for all in authority."
Roy Hayhurst is department head of denominational and public relations services at GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).