(Photo: Stef Patag)
A major Christian book publisher's suit against the Department of Health and Human Services' controversial contraception mandate began today.
Arguments were heard Friday morning in Tyndale House Publishers v. Sebelius at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in Washington, D.C. Representing Tyndale Publishers was the Alliance Defending Freedom, whose senior legal counsel Matt Bowman made arguments on behalf of the Christian business.
"Bible publishers should be free to do business according to the book that they publish," said Bowman in a statement.
"For the government to say that a Bible publisher is not religious is alarming. It demonstrates how clearly the Obama administration is willing to disregard the Constitution's protection of religious freedom to achieve certain political purposes."
Considered one of the largest Christian publishing and digital media businesses, Tyndale – based in Carol Stream, Ill. – filed the suit on Oct. 2.
"The Mandate illegally and unconstitutionally requires Tyndale to violate its and its owners' religious beliefs, and it subjects Tyndale to heavy fines and penalties if it chooses not to violate those beliefs," reads the suit in part.
"Defendants' coercion tramples on the freedom of conscience, freedom of religious exercise, and freedom of speech of Tyndale and its owners."
Tyndale is not the only organization that the ADF is representing in court over the controversial HHS mandate. The conservative legal group is litigating on behalf of three other parties in different cases: Indiana's Grace College and Seminary and California's Biola University; Geneva College and The Seneca Hardwood Lumber Company and its owners, the Hepler family in Pennsylvania; and Louisiana College.
In July, ADF attorneys obtained the first-ever court order against the preventive services mandate on behalf of Colorado's Hercules Industries, which is owned by a Catholic family. That order temporarily suspends the mandate, but only for the benefit of Hercules Industries while that suit goes forward in court.
In a fact sheet released by the White House in February, the Obama Administration stated that certain exemptions would indeed exist for religious groups who may object to the preventive services mandate.
"Religious organizations will not have to provide contraceptive coverage or refer their employees to organizations that provide contraception," reads the fact sheet in part.
"Contraception coverage will be offered to women by their employers' insurance companies directly, with no role for religious employers who oppose contraception."
According to the ADF, while the HHS' preventive services mandate does provide certain exemptions and loopholes for religious groups, under the definition of the mandate as a "for-profit" organization Tyndale is considered "non-religious."