At the request of the U.S. Justice Department, a federal appellate court dismissed on Friday an attempt by the Justice Department to require that its birth control mandate go into effect for Tyndale House Publishers while its lawsuit is pending.
The retreat means the Obama administration is getting nervous about defending its position that a Bible publisher is not religious enough to warrant an exemption from the birth control mandate, argues Matt Bowman, senior legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing Tyndale House in the case.
"Bible publishers should be free to do business according to the book that they publish," Bowman said. "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. For the government to say that a Bible publisher isn't religious is outrageous, and now the Obama administration has had to 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," Bowman added.
The birth control mandate requires most employers to cover birth control, including contraception, sterilization and some "morning after" pills. There is a religious exemption but the exemption is so narrow that most religious employers, even religious schools and social service agencies, do not qualify.
Tyndale objects to coverage of the morning after pills. Supporters of these pills call them "emergency contraception," but many pro-life groups argue they are abortifacients.
There are now 59 lawsuits over the birth control mandate. Friday's order is the first time one of those cases won a total victory for a preliminary injunction. The result means that Tyndale House will not have to cover morning after pills in their employee health plans while they wait for the courts to decide their lawsuit.
The nonprofit religious groups already have injunctive relief as part of a compromise offered by the Obama administration. Thirty of the current lawsuits are for-profit companies. Of those, 25 have asked for injunctive relief, according to The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. Six were denied and must comply with the mandate while their cases are pending, while the other 19 were granted preliminary injunctions.
Tyndale House, based in Carol Stream, Ill., is the world's largest privately held Christian publisher of books, Bibles and digital media; 96.5 percent of its profits go to religious nonprofit causes.