On Tuesday, a federal appeals court overturned the dismissal of Wheaton College and Belmont Abbey’s lawsuits against the Department of Health and Human Services over the HHS contraception mandate. The Becket Fund, representing the schools, describes the result this way:
Last summer, two lower courts had dismissed the Colleges’ cases as premature. Today, the appellate court reinstated those cases, and ordered the Obama Administration to report back every 60 days—starting in mid-February—until the Administration makes good on its promise to issue a new rule that protects the Colleges’ religious freedom. The new rule must be issued by March 31, 2013. […]
The court based its decision on two concessions that government lawyers made in open court. First, the government promised “it would never enforce [the mandate] in its current form” against Wheaton, Belmont Abbey or other similarly situated religious groups. Second, the government promised it would publish a proposed new rule “in the first quarter of 2013” and would finalize it by next August. The administration made both concessions under intense questioning by the appellate judges. The court deemed the concessions a “binding commitment” and has retained jurisdiction over the case to ensure the government follows through. [The Becket Fund, December 18]
For updates on all 42 cases (including those of plaintiffs not represented by the Becket Fund) check out Becket’s HHS Mandate Central page.