Obama administration backs out of appeal over new contraceptive mandate (+video)
Government lawyers give up their challenge to a temporary injunction in a Bible publisher's lawsuit and will battle the issue in another pending case at the appeals court.
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Lawyers for Taylor and Tyndale House countered that their clients had a right under the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to practice their faith without having to accommodate their beliefs to the government’s goal of advancing women’s health and equality.Skip to next paragraph
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They said there is a less restrictive means for the Obama administration to achieve that end: The government could provide contraceptive services itself, rather than forcing religious objectors to do so.
After the judge in Washington issued his temporary injunction, government lawyers filed an appeal in January.
But late last month, Justice Department lawyers asked the appeals court to dismiss their appeal. They told the court that another case involving a religious challenge to the health-care mandate was already before a different three-judge appeals court panel in Washington.
Tyndale House’s lawyers objected. Even though they had won in the lower court, they now wanted the appeals court to take up the issue and decide it.
The government countered in its brief: “No statute or rule permits a prevailing party to require that an enjoined party pursue an interlocutory appeal.”
On Friday, the appeals court panel granted the government’s request and dismissed the appeal.
The panel was composed of two judges nominated by President George W. Bush and a judge nominated by the first President Bush.
The other contraception mandate case at the appeals court is before a judicial panel composed of two judges nominated by President Clinton and one nominated by George W. Bush.
Matt Bowman, lead counsel for Tyndale House, claimed victory on Monday when word of the court’s action circulated.
“Bible publishers should be free to do business according to the book that they publish,” he said in a statement. “The government dismissed its appeal because it knows how ridiculous it sounds arguing that a Bible publisher isn’t religious enough to qualify as a religious employer.”
Mr. Bowman, a lawyer with the conservative public interest group Alliance Defending Freedom, said the administration’s move was a “retreat” in court.
“We will continue to argue that the administration cannot disregard the Constitution’s protection of religious freedom for all family business owners and must offer a comprehensive exemption to the mandate,” he said.
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