Scores of Ministries File Class Action Suit Against Contraception Mandate

By:  Dave Bohon
10/21/2013
       
Scores of Ministries File Class Action Suit Against Contraception Mandate

Over 100 Christian ministries have filed a class-action lawsuit to stop the implementation of the mandate of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) requiring employers to provide free contraceptives — including abortion-causing drugs — to their employees.

The ministries, which all provide health benefits to their employees through the Southern Baptist Convention's (SBC) GuideStone Financial Resources, do not qualify for the exemption that HHS offers to churches and a few narrowly defined religious organizations.

Three non-profit religious organizations are named as complainants in the suit against the mandate, filed by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty: GuideStone, the SBC's benefits arm, which has been providing retirement and health benefits to Southern Baptist churches and affiliated ministries for nearly a century; Reaching Souls International, a nonprofit evangelistic ministry with outreaches to Africa, India, and Cuba; and Truett-McConnell College, a Baptist higher education institution in Cleveland, Georgia.

The two non-profits represent the class of over 100 organizations that provide their employee health benefits through GuideStone, all of which are on a collision course with exorbitant federal fines if they do not compromise their Christian convictions and begin to offer the free contraceptives — including abortifacient drugs — to their workers. The deadline to comply with the mandate is January 1, 2014.

“The government’s refusal to treat these ministries as 'religious employers' is senseless,” said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel for the Becket Fund. “These people spend their lives teaching and preaching their religious faith. If they do not qualify as ‘religious employers,’ the government needs to get a new definition.”

O.S. Hawkins, GuideStone’s president and CEO, said in a prepared statement that “the very purpose of the GuideStone plan is to provide ministry organizations with employee health benefits according to biblical principles. The government shouldn’t prohibit us from continuing in that ministry.”

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