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Supreme Court of the United States

From The Obama Administration, A Crucial Legal Surrender

By Alan Sears posted on:
October 17, 2017

A few weeks ago, I wrote to remind you that you and your family have much cause for hope, even amid all the religious, political, and legal oppression that increasingly assaults people of faith throughout the U.S. and around the world. I share with you several key wins that our Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys and their clients have been blessed to receive in the last month, including our 20th win (and no losses) against the Obama administration’s abortion-pill mandate.

Well, that victory was magnified last week when the Obama administration – faced with mounting court losses – opted to abandon its appeals in several abortion-pill mandate lawsuits. That means that existing court orders in those cases (which protect family businesses from violating their religious beliefs) will stand while the lawsuits move forward through the courts.

This “backing off” on the part of the administration is almost certainly attributable to the wins God so graciously gave us at the U.S. Supreme Court this summer in Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Burwell and to our friends the Green family in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores.

The Department of Justice has now dropped its federal court appeals in The Seneca Hardwood Lumber Company v. BurwellArmstrong v. BurwellBriscoe v. Burwell, and the Hobby Lobby case itself.

Does that mean we’ve won these cases? No – but it means there’s an excellent chance that we will, and that the administration’s attorneys know it.

“The administration was right to abandon its fight against the family businesses involved in these particular cases in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling in June,” says ADF Senior Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. “In a free and diverse society, we respect the freedom to live out our convictions. For these families, that means not being forced to participate in distributing abortion drugs and devices.”

These legal battles all involve the Department of Health and Human Services mandate that would force employers – regardless of their religious or moral convictions – to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception under threat of heavy financial penalties through the IRS. As noted, the preliminary injunctions that the federal district courts issued in all of the cases (which prevent the government from enforcing the law against our clients until the ultimate constitutionality of the mandate is settled in court) will remain in effect until the cases are litigated to conclusion.

Although the ultimate legal question of the mandate remains, this surrender on the part of the administration is a triumph for the many private business owners who have risked their financial security to stand for religious freedom and their constitutionally protected right to exercise that freedom.

“All Americans should oppose unjust laws that force people – under threat of punishment by the IRS – to give up their freedom to live and work according to their beliefs,” Bowman says.

The legal battle goes on, and ADF attorneys and allied attorneys are litigating numerous lawsuits against the abortion-pill mandate across the country. On September 2, our attorneys filed a motion for a permanent injunction on behalf of the non-profit March for Life in that organization’s lawsuit against the abortion-pill mandate. Our injunction argues that the administration’s recent rule changes concerning the mandate offer no relief for pro-life organizations that are not religious. If granted, the injunction would suspend enforcement of the mandate against the well-known pro-life organization, which has held an annual march in Washington, D.C., against abortion since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.

“Clearly, pro-life organizations should be free to operate according to the foundational beliefs for which they exist,” says ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot. “Abortion is the very tragedy March for Life and other pro-life groups oppose. We are asking the court to stop the government from forcing March for Life to act contrary to its core convictions while its lawsuit moves forward. If the government can continue to do that, there’s no limit to what other freedoms it can take away from anyone.”

But we have hope – a hope wonderfully affirmed by this important legal surrender on the part of the administration. Again, let me encourage you and your family, your fellow church members, and your Christian friends to take heart and to “pray without ceasing” for our attorneys, our allies, and our clients, that God will continue to grant us these crucial victories. And that together, we will even yet see a new birth of religious freedom in America.

Alan Sears

Alan Sears


Alan Sears served as founder of Alliance Defending Freedom, building on his experience as longtime leader of the organization to strengthen alliances, forge new relationships, and develop ADF resources.

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