A Win for Religious Liberty: Belmont Abbey Suit Reinstated!

December 19, 2012

Today a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. handed Belmont Abbey College and Wheaton College - and all religious colleges - a major victory in their challenges to the HHS mandate. Earlier this year, two lower courts had dismissed the Colleges' cases as premature but today, an appellate court reinstated those cases. The Cardinal Newman Society and 15 Catholic colleges recommended in The Newman Guide had joined in an amicus brief supporting Belmont Abbey and Wheaton.

Belmont Abbey College was the first to sue the Obama administration over the HHS mandate last year. Following a setback in which a judge, an Obama appointee, dismissed the College's case because the Obama administration had not yet amended regulations to better reflect religious objections as it has promised to do, Belmont Abbey College went back to court Friday. Not only did the court reinstate the case, but it also ordered the Obama administration to report back every 60 days-starting in mid-February-until the Administration makes good on its promise to issue a new rule that protects the Colleges' religious freedom. The new rule must be issued by March 31, 2013.

The Obama administration had created a so-called "safe harbor" to delay enforcement against non-profit religious organizations while the government "considered" some future "accommodation," leading two lower courts to dismiss Belmont Abbey and Wheaton College's lawsuits as premature. Some suspected this was a delay tactic to push any decisions on this volatile issue until after the election.

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