February 23, 2012
LANSING - Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced Michigan has filed a lawsuit to defend religious liberty and challenge the unconstitutional health care mandate that forces religious schools, non-profits and employers to violate their religious and faith-based beliefs by providing insurance plans that cover services that conflict with those beliefs.
"Religious liberty is America's first freedom," said Schuette. "Constitutional rights cannot be finessed. Religious liberty cannot be compromised.
"Any rule, regulation or law that forces faith-based institutions to provide for services that violate their free exercise of religion, or that penalizes them for failing to kneel at the altar of government, is a flat-out violation of the First Amendment."
The lawsuit filed today is in response to recently announced Obamacare regulations that force thousands of religious organizations to violate their deepest beliefs by mandating what the organizations must include in their employee health plans, or face steep government fines. Although the Obama administration has provided thousands of exemptions for other groups, including many large corporations, it has persistently refused to give the same accommodation to religious organizations exercising their First Amendment freedoms.
Schuette noted that Michigan continues its leadership in organizing the multi-state effort to support the three lawsuits previously filed by The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty on behalf of two colleges and a religious broadcasting network challenging onerous administrative health care regulations. Schuette's office will coordinate the drafting and filing of a multi-state amicus brief in defense of religious liberty for the three cases.
On January 20, 2012, the Obama Administration announced that it would not change its mandate forcing religious employers to purchase and provide health care services that violate their religious beliefs and moral convictions. The decision was announced in spite of concerns expressed by a wide spectrum of religious leaders and employers.
Michigan's lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska and Michigan is joined by six states in the effort: Florida, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas. Also joining the litigation are The Catholic Mutual Relief Society of America, Catholic Social Services, and two private citizens.
The Becket Fund cases challenging the rule are Belmont Abbey College v. Sebelius, Colorado Christian College v. Sebelius, and Eternal World Television Network v. Sebelius. A briefing schedule has not yet been issued in those cases yet, but Michigan expects to file its briefs later this year.
Schuette's efforts to challenge the unconstitutional Obamacare mandate are the latest steps to defend religious liberty for Michigan citizens:
· In 2011, Schuette joined The Becket Fund to file an amicus brief on behalf of seven other states in support of religious liberty in a significant case involving the right of religious organizations to manage their religious employees without government interference. In January 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously (9-0) upheld the right of religious organizations to manage their religious employees without government interference in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission et al.
· Schuette also filed an amicus brief in support of Julea Ward, a former Eastern Michigan University student who is suing the university in federal court for violating her constitutional rights after she was dismissed from a graduate counseling program due to her religious beliefs. On January 27, 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th District agreed Ward had a right to trial and reversed the lower court ruling dismissing her case.