Note: Dr. James Dobson, founder and president of the James Dobson Family Institute (JDFI), issues the following statement in reaction to the permanent injunction and declaratory relief granted by United States District Judge Robert E Blackburn to Family Talk in the case of "Dobson v. Azar" (initially filed as "Dobson v. Sebelius").
When we filed our case in January 2014, our ministry, like every other pro-life and religious organization in the country, faced a life or death decision. The Affordable Care Act, championed by Barack Obama, the most pro-abortion president in the history of our country, required ministries to cover abortifacients like the "Morning After Pill" or "Plan B" through their employee health plans. These pills are erroneously called contraceptives, when in truth they allow babies to be conceived but prevent them from attaching to the uterus. When that occurs, a living baby, a child made in the image of God, is killed. That's why these medications are called "abortifacients," because they result in the deaths of tiny human beings.
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Christian organizations like ours had one of two choices – either we violate our consciences, or we violate the law. The penalty for failing to comply with the ACA regulations was $36,500 per year for every covered employee and family member – clearly unsustainable for any nonprofit ministry. The penalty for failing to comply with our consciences was beyond human reckoning. Faced with this decision, and with the full and unwavering support of the Family Talk Board of Directors, we decided to fight the law in court while choosing a path of civil disobedience, even if it meant the ministry would be fined out of existence.
At the time, I explained our decision this way:
"I believe in the rule of law, and it has been my practice since I was in college to respect and honor those in authority over us. It is my desire to do so now. However, this assault on the sanctity of human life takes me where I cannot go. I WILL NOT pay the surcharge for abortion services. The amount of the surcharge is irrelevant. To pay one cent for the killing of babies is egregious to me, and I will do all I can to correct a government that lies to me about its intentions and then tries to coerce my acquiescence with extortion. It would be a violation of my most deeply held convictions to disobey what I consider to be the principles in Scripture. The Creator will not hold us guiltless if we turn a deaf ear to the cries of His innocent babies. So come and get me if you must, Mr. President. I will not bow before your wicked regulation."
Prayerfully, we filed suit against this assault on the basis of religious freedom. A dream team of religious-freedom lawyers came to our assistance, including Alan Sears, the founder and past president of the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), and his colleagues Greg Baylor and Kevin Theriot, along with L. Martin Nussbaum and Ian Speir of Nussbaum Speir PLLC. Sears described our case as "one of the most important religious liberty cases in the history of the United States."
It was not overstating the matter to say the full power and the might of the U.S. government and its vast bureaucracy was aligned against us. And now, over five grueling years since we first filed suit, we have finally prevailed in court. The assault on religious freedom launched against us and those who share our values has finally been repelled. We are grateful to God and to our supporters for standing with us as we fought for all those like us. During that time, the fines levied against us by the government (voided by our victory) grew to over $22 million. Can you imagine a ministry like ours being forced to pay fines of that caliber, levied by the government in defiance of our First Amendment rights?
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Because of this ruling, every religious institution – not just ours – has greater legal standing to combat the threats of extinction unless they provide a health plan that includes abortion-inducing drugs. In addition, precedents are now set in the law that will make it much harder for governments, whether federal, state, or local, to attempt to so brazenly disregard our religious liberties in the future. Yet, it is still true that the price of liberty is determined vigilance.
We have won this battle and give God all the glory in it, but the forces arrayed against us are still fighting an ongoing war. There will be more battles. Now, more than ever, we must stand together with those defending life and the freedom of religion in the public square. We cannot afford a moment of apathy. Nevertheless, had our ministry not survived this fight, it would have still been the right decision to fight. Thank God, we won.