“This action arises because the federal government has deemed devout publishers of the Bible to be insufficiently 'religious' to enjoy religious freedom in America,” said a federal lawsuit that was filed on Oct. 2.
The suit was filed on behalf of Tyndale House Publishers, a Christian publisher of Bibles and other Christian materials whose owners object to offering insurance coverage of early abortion drugs, which is required under the federal contraception mandate.
While the mandate includes a religious exemption, it applies only to non-profit organizations that exist primarily to inculcate religious values and employ and serve mainly members of their own faith.
For-profit businesses such as Tyndale are categorically deemed non-religious and fail to qualify for the religious exemption, even if they are created and run according to religious principles.
The lawsuit argued that the government’s “refusal to accommodate the conscience of Tyndale is highly selective.”
Leaders of the administration “cannot possibly claim they have a compelling interest to violate Tyndale's beliefs when they have voluntarily chosen to omit nearly two-thirds of the nation” for secular reasons, it said.
It explained how the company, which has 260 full-time employees, was started in 1962 by a Christian couple committed to running a business according to biblical principles.
These Christian beliefs are reflected in the company’s statement of purpose, core values and corporate goals, the lawsuit said, observing that “(e)very book Tyndale publishes has to have ministry value, otherwise it will not publish it.”
In addition, the executive team and board of directors pray together regularly and have done so for decades. The company holds a voluntary weekly chapel service, which is attended by more than half of employees, and donates 10 percent of its pre-tax profits to charity each year. It also holds monthly “build days” with Habitat for Humanity and sponsors annual mission projects for employees.
Furthermore, the lawsuit said, Tyndale “pays its employees well above minimum wage and provides them with excellent benefits,” including a strong health plan, bonus program and profit sharing plan.
The company is self-insured and has never covered abortions or abortion-inducing products, in keeping with its owners’ religious beliefs. It is exempt from the Illinois state requirement to cover early abortion drugs.
But when the company’s next insurance plan year begins in October 2012, it is required to cover the objectionable items or face crippling fines.
“The Mandate adopts a particular theological view of what is acceptable moral behavior with respect to provision of abortifacient coverage and imposes that view upon all adherents of religion who must either conform their consciences or suffer penalty,” the lawsuit argued.
The company is now asking for an injunction to block the enforcement of the mandate against it, arguing that its constitutionally protected right to free exercise of religion is being violated.
“Bible publishers should be free to do business according to the book that they publish,” said Matt Bowman, senior legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing Tyndale.
“To say that a Bible publisher is not religious is patently absurd,” said Bowman in a statement announcing the lawsuit. He argued that the case “is a prime example of how ridiculous and arbitrary the Obama administration’s mandate is.”
Under the mandate, religious employers must “choose between two poison pills: either desert your faith by complying, or resist and be punished,” he explained.
“Americans today clearly agree with America’s founders: the federal government’s bureaucrats are not qualified to decide what faith is, who the faithful are, and where and how that faith may be lived out,” he said.
A Christian Bible publisher has become the latest of nearly 100 plaintiffs to file a lawsuit challenging the federal contraception mandate over religious liberty violations.
Contraception mandate, Religious freedom