A federal judge in Denver ruled the Family Talk Christian ministry of Dr. James Dobson is not subject to the Obamacare requirement that employers fund abortion for employees.
When the lawsuit was filed in 2014, Dobson bluntly told President Obama: “Come and get me if you must, Mr. President. I will not bow before your wicked regulations.”
U.S. District Judge Robert E. Blackburn issued a permanent order Tuesday restraining the government from enforcing the requirement on Family Talk, which is a part of the James Dobson Family Institute.
The Affordable Health Care Act, the complaint said, requires group health plans for employees to include coverage “for drugs, devices, or procedures that may destroy a human embryo or fertilized egg of a mother.”
The judge ruled the government’s requirement violates the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
“The defendants concede ‘that requiring employers with sincerely held religious objections to comply with the mandate or the accommodation process would violate RFRA,'” the judge wrote. “In essence, the defendants concede the validity of the RFRA claim of the plaintiffs.”
In a similar case, brought by the Little Sisters of the Poor, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the government can accomplish its aim to provide abortion-causing drugs without using the Catholic charity.
Privately held, for-profit corporations also are exempt from the requirement if the owners object based on religious grounds, the Supreme Court ruled in the Hobby Lobby case.
In addition, a federal judge in Texas has ruled the entire Obamacare law unconstitutional, and the Trump administration is backing that opinion in an appeal.
‘Life or death decision’
“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,” Dobson said in a statement.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
Dobson said Christian organizations were forced with the choice of either violating their consciences or 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 non-profit ministry,” he noted. “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.”
He explained that because of the ruling Tuesday, “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.”
‘Not one cent for killing babies’
The case developed after federal bureaucrats filled in the blanks of the the Obamacare law passed by Congress in 2011 with a requirement that all employers, including Christian groups, pay for abortions for employees.
No, Dobson said bluntly.
WND reported his reaction:
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.
The lawsuit was handled by the Alliance Defending Freedom, whose lawyers have had numerous victories at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Dobson said: “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.”
Freedom of religion
Reacting to the order issued Tuesday, ADF Senior Counsel Gregory S. Baylor said religious organizations “have the freedom to peacefully operate according to their beliefs without the threat of punishment by the government.”
He said the order “fully affirms that freedom and provides the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute with permanent protection from the mandate.”
“As with other recent orders in favor of faith-based organizations, Dr. Dobson’s ministry will no longer have to fear being forced to pay fines for simply abiding by the Christian beliefs that it teaches and espouses, and it is no longer required to fill out forms authorizing coverage for abortion-inducing drugs,” Baylor said. “The government has many other ways to ensure access to these items without forcing people of faith to violate their deepest convictions.”
Lead counsel L. Martin Nussbaum of Nussbaum Speir PLLC said that if the government can “fine religious ministries out of existence because they want to operate consistently with their faith, there’s no limit to what other freedoms it can take away.”
“We are pleased with the court’s order and equally pleased that this ministry will no longer have to worry about immense government fines for choosing to live out the very faith it believes in and talks about on the air,” he said.
WND reported in 2014 when Family Talk was granted a temporary reprieve from the law.
ADF noted courts have issued similar orders for other Christian ministries in Colorado, Oklahoma, Indiana, California, Iowa, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida.
Other cases remain under litigation.