President Donald Trump's administration has repealed the Obamacare's birth control mandate, which required employers to provide insurance to cover women's birth control and abortion-inducing drugs, but not all Christian groups agree with the decision.
As the administration announced two new federal rules Friday to allow any nonprofit or for-profit entity to make religious or moral objections to obtain an exemption from the law's contraception mandate, The Becket Fund, which defended the Little Sisters Catholic nuns at the U.S. Supreme Court, applauded the decision.
"The new rule is a victory for common sense," said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at Becket, in a statement. "The previous administration pursued a needless and divisive culture war. It was always ridiculous to claim you need nuns to give out contraceptives. This new rule shows that you don't."
The law firm said the rule aligns with the Supreme Court's unanimous ruling in Zubik v. Burwell protecting the Little Sisters, which says the government cannot fine the religious groups for following their faith. It noted that the contraceptive mandate issue went to the Supreme Court five times, and each time the Supreme Court ruled in favor of protecting religious groups.
The controversial mandate had forced many employers, irrespective of their beliefs, to provide abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and contraception with provisions for heavy penalties by the Internal Revenue Service and other federal agencies if the mandate's requirements weren't met.
"It should be easy for the courts to finalize this issue now that the government admits it broke the law," Rienzi added.
Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, also issued a statement, saying, "This is what we have sought all along, and is the outcome we were hoping for when we took our case, Zubik vs. Burwell, to the U.S. Supreme Court."
He added, "This is a great day for religious liberty. The attorney general's guidance reinforces President Trump's commitment to religious freedom. The president has made promises in this regard, and today he is delivering on those promises."
However, Interfaith Alliance, suggested that Trump is using religious freedom as a "license to discriminate."
"His administration just gave employers the power to dictate the most personal health choices of the women and girls covered by their employee health insurance plans," Interfaith Alliance President Rabbi Jack Moline said in a statement. "This is another huge gift from the president to the Religious Right. It has nothing to do with religious freedom and everything to do with establishing a right for one group to force its religious beliefs onto others."
He added, "Religious freedom is a fundamental right, worthy of the highest protections. But something very different is at stake here. People of faith have the right to seek exemptions from laws that violate their personal religious convictions, but they don't get to force their religious views onto others."
But the decision protects "the beliefs that inspire Christian colleges and universities and the Little Sisters of the Poor to serve their communities," Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Gregory S. Baylor said. "The rule protects the conscience convictions of organizations like March for Life, an organization that bases its pro-life beliefs on science and philosophy, and hosts the largest pro-life gathering in the world every year in Washington, D.C.," he said in a statement.
Responding to Trump's decision, Knights of Columbus CEO Carl Anderson noted that the "first right enumerated in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights is freedom of religion."
"It is now crucial that the Trump administration drop its defense of the many lawsuits opposing the 'HHS mandate' to allow for clear court precedent as to the unconstitutional nature of the previous regulations."
Kim Colby, director at the Center for Law & Religious Freedom of the Christian Legal Society, told The Christian Post in 2016 that the Obama administration had maintained the legal battle with the Little Sisters to benefit its "pro-abortion" allies.
"The Obama administration rewarded its political supporters in the pro-abortion organizations by adopting the HHS mandate to force employers, including religious employers, to include contraceptives coverage," said Colby. "It is very important to recall that the HHS mandate is not something that Congress passed as part of the Affordable Care Act. The HHS mandate is purely an administrative requirement imposed by the executive branch. Congress would never have passed the HHS mandate."