May 30, 2018

Americans United for Separation of Church and State, joined by 12 religious and civil-rights organizations, late yesterday urged a federal appeals court to affirm a preliminary injunction blocking the Trump administration’s new rules that would allow employers and universities to cite religious or moral objections as justification to deny employees and students insurance coverage for contraceptives.

In a friend-of-the-court brief filed with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the lawsuit California v. Azar, Americans United and allies explained that the administration’s proposed rules are unconstitutional because they show government preference for certain religious beliefs and allow those beliefs to be used to harm others.

“The Trump administration’s new rules have two major problems: They hurt women and they misuse religious freedom in the process,” said Rachel Laser, president and chief executive officer of Americans United. “Religious freedom laws should protect people, not harm them. These rules cannot be squared with the Constitution or our core values.”

Joining Americans United on the brief are Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice; Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America Inc.; HEART Women & Girls; Interfaith Alliance Foundation; Jewish Women International; Methodist Federation for Social Action; Muslim Advocates; National Council of Jewish Women Inc.; People For the American Way Foundation; Reconstructing Judaism; Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association; and Sikh Coalition.

“The right to believe, or not, and to practice one’s faith, or not, is sacrosanct. But it does not extend to imposing the costs and burdens of one’s beliefs on innocent third parties,” the brief states. “Government should not, and under the Establishment Clause cannot, favor the religious beliefs of some at the expense of the rights, beliefs, and health of others.”

The brief was authored by Americans United Legal Director Richard B. Katskee, Associate Legal Director Alex J. Luchenitser and Legal Fellows Kelly M. Percival and Alison Tanner.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.