July 25, 2014
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HHS Abortion Mandate
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Hobby Lobby abortion appeal gains ERLC, others' support
WASHINGTON (BP)—-The Southern Baptist Convention's religious freedom entity has urged the U.S. Supreme Court to review lower rulings on the Obama administration's abortion/contraception mandate for the purpose of striking down the controversial rule.
"This is not just a matter for Christians but for all people of good will who recognize the dangers of a coercive state church, including that of a state church of sexual revolution." – Russell D. Moore
In a friend-of-the-court brief, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) joined seven other groups in asking the justices to review split decisions at the appeals court level on the mandate. The brief calls for the Supreme Court to rule in favor of the religious freedom rights of Hobby Lobby and other family-owned businesses that have conscientious objections to a regulation that requires employers to provide abortion-causing drugs for their workers. It asks the high court to uphold a lower-court decision in favor of Hobby Lobby and its sister corporation Mardel, Oklahoma City-based retail chains owned by the pro-life evangelical Christian Green family. The brief also calls for the justices to overturn a ruling against Conestoga Wood Specialties, a Pennsylvania business owned by pro-life Mennonites. President Russell D. Moore said the ERLC stands with the family-owned businesses "for religious liberty and against the audacity of a state that believes it can annex the human conscience." "This is not just a matter for Christians but for all people of good will who recognize the dangers of a coercive state church, including that of a state church of sexual revolution," Moore said in a statement to Baptist Press. The Supreme Court is expected to announce after Nov. 12 if it will grant review in the cases, according to the Christian Legal Society (CLS), which wrote the brief signed onto by the ERLC. Two factors that appear to favor review by the high court are: 1) The divided opinions by appeals courts, with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver deciding in favor of Hobby Lobby and Mardel and the Third Circuit in Philadelphia ruling against Conestoga Wood, and 2) the requests by both the Department of Justice and Hobby Lobby for Supreme Court review of the same opinion. Hobby Lobby's Oct. 21 petition to the high court was an unconventional move for a party that won in the appeals court. Kim Colby, CLS' senior legal counsel, cited a third reason for likely Supreme Court review: The mandate's threat to religious freedom. Of the lower courts' differences, Colby told Baptist Press in a written statement that the justices' main job "is to take cases where there is a 'circuit split' and decide which court reached the right legal and constitutional conclusion, particularly when First Amendment rights are at stake."
HHS mandate: 'fiery rafter in burning house'
"Religious liberty is under assault all over the place in this country in ways that I think are probably more pronounced than we have seen since the founding era."
-- Russell D. Moore
WASHINGTON (BP) -- Americans acting on their religious convictions are being singled out "because they won't sing out of the hymn book of the church of the sexual revolution" in the view of Southern Baptist ethics leader Russell D. Moore.
GuideStone sues HHS on Obamacare abortion mandate
DALLAS (BP) -- The Southern Baptist Convention's health and financial benefits entity has filed its first-ever lawsuit against the federal government in a legal challenge to the Obama administration's abortion/contraception mandate.
"We reluctantly take this step because we are committed to protecting the unborn and preserving the religious freedom that is guaranteed under the laws of this nation."
-- O.S. Hawkins
GuideStone Financial Resources and two of the organizations that take part in the entity's health plans filed the federal suit Oct. 11 in Oklahoma City. Joining GuideStone in the suit were Oklahoma City-based Reaching Souls International and Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, Ga. The suit contends the religious liberty of the entities and other non-church-related organizations covered by GuideStone's health plan, is violated by a rule issued by the Department of Health and Human Services to implement the 2010 health-care law. The HHS regulation requires employers to pay for coverage of workers' contraceptives, including drugs that can cause abortions, but does not provide an exemption for entities like those that filed suit. "GuideStone plans do not cover drugs or devices that can or do cause abortions," GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins said in a written release from the entity Monday (Oct. 14). "We reluctantly take this step because we are committed to protecting the unborn and preserving the religious freedom that is guaranteed under the laws of this nation," he said. "This mandate runs rough-shod over these foundational principles." GuideStone has protested a series of "final" rules issued during the last two years by HHS on contraceptive coverage, joining the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and Southern Baptist leaders -- as well as evangelical and Roman Catholic organizations -- in opposing the mandate and its lack of adequate conscience protections for religious employers. After GuideStone failed to achieve satisfactory results through legislative and regulatory processes, Hawkins signaled to the Southern Baptist Executive Committee in September the entity would file suit. "From the outset of this unacceptable mandate, GuideStone has diligently pursued a number of avenues with Congress and the Administration to protect those we serve," Hawkins said in his Oct. 14 statement. "While we have secured some partial relief, it does not go far enough. Many ministry organizations are still in harm's way despite the fact that they also share core convictions regarding the sanctity of life." The lawsuit cites 16 counts against HHS and its mandate, including violations of the First Amendment's free exercise and establishment clauses and the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Foes of the abortion/contraception mandate say HHS has provided adequate conscience protections for churches and affiliated auxiliaries, but not for other religious institutions. The suit seeks a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the mandate until the judicial process is complete. GuideStone and its fellow plaintiffs face heavy financial penalties for noncompliance. The mandate will take effect Jan. 1, 2014, for GuideStone.
Abortion funding plagues health care law
"... Americans will be complicit in the deaths of thousands of unborn children each year through their tax dollars."
-– Charles Donovan
WASHINGTON (BP) -- Abortion continued to embroil President Obama's signature health care law as Americans began researching their options in the exchange insurance plans called for by the measure.
Henry Blackaby to undergo quadruple bypass
ATLANTA (BP) -- Southern Baptist Bible teacher Henry Blackaby will undergo quadruple bypass surgery Tuesday (Sept. 24) after suffering a heart attack while driving in Atlanta, becoming confused and traveling for 29 hours before police found him Sept. 20 in Tifton, Ga., 150 miles southeast of his home.
Hawkins: GuideStone to add court battle against contraceptive mandate in health care law
NASHVILLE (BP) -- GuideStone Financial Resources has renewed its vow to fight the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive/abortifacient mandate, now looking to court action alongside efforts in Congress and before federal agencies.
Obamacare's implementation eyed by GuideStone for 2014
DALLAS (BP) -- As employers nationwide -- including most churches -- prepare for 2014, the year that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act becomes more broadly implemented, questions are understandably arising from pastors, business administrators and church personnel and finance committees.
"... Both Democrats and Republicans are putting politics over the needs of pastors.
-- O.S. Hawkins
O.S. Hawkins, president of GuideStone Financial Resources, said the Southern Baptist entity is intent on maintaining its role as an advocate for church plans in general and for pastors and others in ministry it serves specifically. "Since the enactment of ObamaCare in 2010, GuideStone has been focused on addressing the impact of this law upon our pastors and others serving churches and ministry-related organizations," Hawkins said. "In fact, we continue to be at the forefront of advocating for pastors and others in ministry as the impacts of ObamaCare unfold. That remains a top priority here at GuideStone and is a multi-faceted endeavor." Pastors and churches must address four main concerns as they look to re-enrollment for 2014: 1. whether they will provide coverage for their employees or put them in a position of having to obtain coverage on secular exchanges. 2. how exchange plan benefits and total cost of coverage, including out-of-pocket expenses, exchange taxes and fees, will compare with their existing coverage. 3. whether, if they use a secular health plan provider, they will be subsidizing objectionable contraceptives, including abortifacients. 4. whether their health plans meet applicable health care reform limits and rules. Health care exchanges Under the health care reform law, health care exchanges -- or marketplaces -- were to be set up in all 50 states. Many states elected not to do so, meaning the federal government must establish them in those states. To date, 24 states have, or are working to, establish state-run or federal-state partnership exchanges. The remainder will have federally run exchanges. Despite a deadline of Oct. 1, 2013, to establish these exchanges, even at this late date much is unknown. Subsidies available to eligible individuals and families (e.g., those with a taxable household income around $62,000 for a family of two, $94,000 for a family of four, etc.) who seek their coverage through a health plan on an exchange may lower the out-of-pocket and/or premium costs, but the reality is that many exchanges may only offer limited provider networks, including fewer choices of doctors and medical facilities. ...
Judge grants stay for Hobby Lobby
WASHINGTON (BP) -- Hobby Lobby has won further relief from a massive penalty as it challenges the Obama administration’s abortion/contraception mandate.
Halt religious coercion, Baptist & Catholic-led coalition says of abortion mandate
WASHINGTON (BP) -- A widely diverse coalition headed by Southern Baptist and Roman Catholic leaders has called on the Obama administration to reverse the religious coercion in its abortion/contraception mandate.
Baptist businessman wins against mandate
WASHINGTON (BP) -- A Southern Baptist business owner has won a court victory protecting him for now from being required to underwrite potentially abortion-causing drugs for his employees.
Moore, others: Final mandate rules fail
WASHINGTON (BP) -- The Obama administration again failed to provide adequate conscience protections in the final rules for its abortion/contraception mandate, religious freedom advocates say.
Hobby Lobby saved from hefty mandate fines
WASHINGTON (BP) -- Hobby Lobby gained relief just in time to avoid a hefty penalty for refusing to comply with the Obama administration's abortion/contraception mandate.
Hobby Lobby gains a win in appeals court
WASHINGTON (BP) -- A federal appeals court has handed Hobby Lobby a significant, though limited, victory in its legal challenge of the Obama administration's abortion/contraception mandate.
College wins contraceptive mandate injunction
PITTSBURGH (BP) -- Geneva College, a Christian school in Beaver Falls, Pa., has become the first nonprofit to receive a preliminary injunction against the contraceptive mandate.
Baptists, Catholics join to fight abortion mandate; ERLC, USCCB leaders write Congress
"[M]any people are being forced -- and many others will soon be forced -- to either follow what the government compels or suffer" for their beliefs.
-- Russell D. Moore & William Lori
WASHINGTON (BP) -- The United States' two largest religious denominations have joined forces in an effort to protect freedom of conscience as full enforcement of the Obama administration's abortion/contraception mandate nears.

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