Federal lawsuit opposes Obama administration’s attack on religious freedom
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys have filed a federal lawsuit against the Obama administration on behalf of Ave Maria School of Law in Naples, Fla. The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the administration’s mandate that religious employers provide insurance coverage for abortifacients, sterilization, and contraception to employees regardless of religious or moral objections.
“Faith-based educational institutions should be free to live and operate according to the faith they teach and espouse,” said Senior Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. “If the government can force Ave Maria to violate its faith in order to exist, then the government can do the same or worse to others.”
“Our school believes in living out our religious convictions,” said Ave Maria School of Law President and Dean Eugene R. Milhizer, who writes and speaks nationally on the issue of religious freedom, the abortion pill mandate, and the Catholic Church. “The First Amendment protects Americans from mandates that require us to act against our deeply held religious convictions. But the mandate leaves us with no real choice: we must either comply and abandon our religious freedom and conscience, or resist and be fined for our faith.”
Ave Maria School of Law was founded in 1999 to provide a legal education that is publicly faithful to the authoritative teachings of the Catholic Church. The school’s sincere religious beliefs forbid it from facilitating the provision of abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, or sterilization through health insurance coverage it offers to its employees.
“The question is whether the government can pick and choose what faith is, who the faithful are, and when and where they can exercise that faith,” added Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot. “The cost of religious freedom for Americans and organizations across the country that face this mandate is severe. The potential for massive fines and lawsuits could shut down religious educational institutions as well as private employers with similar religious convictions.”
The lawsuit, Ave Maria School of Law v. Sebelius, filed with the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, argues that the mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as well as the First and Fifth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Roger Gannam, one of nearly 2,300 attorneys allied with Alliance Defending Freedom, is local counsel in the case.
Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys and allied attorneys are also litigating 15 other lawsuits against the mandate. The lawsuits represent a large cross-section of Protestants and Catholics who object to the mandate.
- Pronunciation guide: Bowman (BOH’-min), Theriot (TAIR’-ee-oh)