A federal judge has temporarily blocked Biden administration mandates that would have forced nonprofit and for-profit religious employers and health care providers to pay for and perform transgender medical procedures and counseling.
If Judge Daniel M. Traynor of the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota had not blocked these mandates, they would have been enforced even if they violated the employer’s or health care provider’s religious beliefs, Fox News reported Tuesday.
The Christian law firm Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit in October against the mandates on behalf of the Christian Employers Alliance.
The group exists, in part, “to support Christian employers and develop strategies for them, so that they, as part of their religious witness and exercise may provide health or other employment related benefits to their respective employees and engage in other employment practices in a manner that is consistent with Christian values,” the court documents read.
The defendants in the CEA lawsuit included Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra, the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission and the Office for Civil Rights in the Department of Health and Human Services.
“No government agency ought to be in the business of evaluating the sincerity of another’s religious beliefs,” the judge wrote in the decision.
Jacob Reed of the Alliance Defending Freedom argued the case before the court on behalf of the CEA.
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“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 in a statement.
“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,” he said.
“The court was on firm ground to halt enforcement of these unlawful mandates that disrespect people of faith.”
The mandates emerged from Section 1157 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) during the administration of then-President Barack Obama in 2016.
On the day he took office, President Joe Biden issued an executive order extending the prohibition on discrimination to that based on “gender identity and sexual orientation.”
Several groups filed lawsuits fighting that order as a violation of religious liberty.
In its suit, the CEA argued that HHS, the EEOC and the Office of Civil Rights were misinterpreting Section 1157 when sending guidance interpreting denial of transgender medical procedures and counseling as discrimination on the basis of sex.
Traynor agreed with this in his ruling.
The district judge wrote that “since the issuance of the Biden HHS Notification, HHS has also released new guidance with the newest HHS Guidance. In fact, the HHS Guidance encourages a parent to file a complaint if a medical provider refuses to gender transition their child, of any age, including an infant.
“The thought that a newborn child could be surgically altered to change gender is the result of the Biden HHS Notification and HHS Guidance that brands a medical professional’s refusal to do so as discrimination.”
In a footnote, he added, “Beyond the religious implications, the Biden HHS Notification and resulting HHS Guidance frustrate the proper care of gender dysphoria, where even among adults who experience the condition, a diagnosis occurs following the considered involvement of medical professionals.
“By branding the consideration as ‘discrimination,’ the HHS prohibits the medical profession from evaluating what is best for the patient in what is certainly a complex mental health question.”
Traynor concluded, “Religious freedoms are at the heart of this case. It is in the public interest to ensure these rights are not violated.”
Many viewed the ruling as a victory for freedom of religion.
“CEA members are relieved, and look forward to a permanent, nationwide halt to this affront to religious freedom,” the group’s president, Shannon Royce, said in a statement shared on Twitter.
BREAKING: Fed judge issued an order Monday temporarily halting Biden’s two #transgender mandates. @JoinCEANow president said, “CEA members are relieved, and look forward to a permanent, nationwide halt to this affront to religious freedom.” https://t.co/cyjmAgDZDZ pic.twitter.com/YuM1nqzW3k
— Christian Employers Alliance (@JoinCEANow) May 17, 2022
“The administration’s mandates are crippling for the countless Christian-owned and operated businesses seeking to care well for their employees without the fear of punishing fines, burdensome litigation costs, the loss of federal funds, and even criminal penalties,” Royce said, according to Fox News.
“As stewards of the health and safety of our valued employees, it is unconscionable and unconstitutional to be mandated to provide, pay for, or promote services and procedures that directly contradict our deeply held religious beliefs,” she added.
“We are pleased that we can continue to act consistent with those beliefs while our lawsuit proceeds and look forward to ultimately prevailing with our case.”