Reported By Michael Gryboski, Mainline Church Editor | Tuesday, May 17, 2022
A federal court has placed a temporary block on the enforcement of a Biden administration mandate requiring an alliance of Christian employers to pay for or provide health plans that cover gender transition surgeries. Judge Daniel Traynor of the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota issued an order Monday granting the Christian Employers Alliance, an organization that provides support to Christian businesses and nonprofits, a preliminary injunction on grounds the mandate would “irreparably harm” the Christian group.
Last October, the CEA filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Department of Health & Human Services, seeking to block the enforcement of the mandate that requires coverage of trans-affirming counseling and medical services that violate the beliefs of its members. At issue were two mandates from the EEOC and HHS interpreting Title VII civil rights discrimination protections based on “sex” to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
“The Alliance must either violate its sincerely held beliefs or face monetary losses, fines, and even civil liabilities. The Plaintiffs and their members face a very real irreparable harm if they are either forced to comply or if they refuse to comply,” wrote Traynor, a Trump appointee.
“The Alliance has already shown it faces an injury. Absent a preliminary injunction, the Alliance and its members will be forced to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs or incur severe monetary penalties.”
The CEA is represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal group that has successfully argued religious liberty cases at the U.S. Supreme Court. ADF Legal Counsel Jacob Reed said in a statement that he believes the “court was on firm ground to halt enforcement of these unlawful mandates that disrespect people of faith.”
“All employers and healthcare providers, including those in the Christian Employers Alliance, have the constitutional right to conduct their business and render treatment in a manner consistent with their deeply held religious beliefs,” Reed said.
“The employers we represent believe that God purposefully created humans as either male or female, and so it would violate their religious beliefs to pay for or perform life-altering medical procedures or surgeries that seek to change one’s biological sex.”
The Obama administration instituted the mandate in 2016 and the Trump administration repealed the mandate in 2018. The Biden administration reinstituted the policy in 2021 and justified the rule by citing the 2020 Supreme Court decision Bostock v. Clayton County. In the employment case, the high court ruled that Title VII applied to sexual orientation and gender identity.
“The Supreme Court in Bostock recognized that to discriminate against a person based on sexual orientation or transgender status is to discriminate against that individual based on sex,” stated the EEOC last year.
“Therefore, the Supreme Court held that Title VII makes it unlawful for a covered employer to take an employee’s sexual orientation or transgender status into account in making employment-related decisions.”
U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor granted an injunction against the HHS mandate on behalf of the Franciscan Alliance last August, concluding that the HHS’ mandate violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
“When the RFRA violation is clear and the threat of irreparable harm is present, a permanent injunction exempting Christian Plaintiffs from that religion-burdening conduct is the appropriate relief,” ruled O’Connor.