The Obama administration is claiming that a dedicated Christian publisher of Bibles and ministry material is insufficiently religious to qualify for an exemption to the contraception mandate in the president's health-care overhaul.
According to a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday in the District of Columbia by Tyndale House Publishers, the company has been refused a "religious employer" exemption because the Health and Human Services Department categorically maintains that any for-profit publisher is not a "religious employer."
The Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing Tyndale, called the rule an unconstitutional and arbitrary threat to religious freedom.
"Bible publishers should be free to do business according to the book that they publish," said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. "To say that a Bible publisher is not religious is patently absurd. Tyndale House is a prime example of how ridiculous and arbitrary the Obama administration's mandate is. Americans today clearly agree with America's founders: the federal government's bureaucrats are not qualified to decide what faith is, who the faithful are, and where and how that faith may be lived out."
Tyndale House Publishers was incorporated "as a publisher of Christian and faith-enhancing books ... and other media of communication," but is primarily owned by and almost entirely benefits the Tyndale House Foundation, which is incorporated in Illinois as a nonprofit.
According to court filings, "the Foundation receives 96.5% of all of Tyndale's distributed profits. Since 2001, the Foundation has received $38.8 million of Tyndale's $40.2 million in distributed profits."
Tyndale House says the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act, which also includes drugs many Christian groups say are abortifacient, requires it to pay for medical procedures it believes are immoral on religious grounds and thus violate their conscience.
An HHS spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment on the lawsuit.
The legal case filed Tuesday also says the administration's refusal to exempt Tyndale is inconsistent with the myriad exceptions already granted to the contraception and other Affordable Care Act mandates, which the lawsuit says require HHS to generously interpret religiously-based requests for exemptions.
"The government's mandate exempts what it calls "religious employers," but denies that status to Tyndale House Publishers through its arbitrary definition," the suit says.
Tyndale House is named after William Tyndale, the English Reformation scholar whose Bible translation was the first English-language Bible directly translated from the original languages. Tyndale was executed for heresy in 1536.