“We got everything we were fighting for,” said Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, as he announced today a legal resolution between Priests for Life and the federal government, ending a five-year religious liberty battle over the Obama administration’s HHS mandate. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Priests for Life by the American Freedom Law Center.
“The protracted war on religious freedom launched by the Obama administration through its HHS mandate is finally over – and freedom has won a complete victory!” declared Fr. Pavone. “Today, the Trump administration has done what the Obama administration could have and should have been done five years ago – respect the rights of Americans to practice their faiths. Thank you, President Trump!”
Fr. Pavone (National Director of Priests for Life), Janet Morana (Executive Director), and Evangelist Alveda King (Director of Civil Rights for the Unborn) – all plaintiffs in this lawsuit which went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to fight the Obama administration’s HHS mandate – announced today that they have reached a settlement agreement with the government that ends their legal struggle.
Under the terms of the binding agreement, the government affirms that the so-called “contraceptive mandate” cannot be legally enforced against Priests for Life, and that it is fully exempt from any obligation to cooperate in any way with the provision of contraceptives or abortion-inducing drugs in its health care plans. Further, the agreement provides that Priests for Life is exempt not only from the mandate, but also from “any materially similar regulation or agency policy,” thereby providing additional protection should another Obama-like administration take office in the future.
“The HHS mandate that gave Priests for Life the choice between helping to provide abortions or paying crushing financial penalties was really no choice at all,” added Fr. Pavone. “No American should ever be forced to choose between following his/her faith and following the law. We would never be complicit in the taking of human life, and the Obama administration knew it. I praise God that the Trump administration has ended this attack on all religious faiths.”
Father Pavone thanked Robert Muise and David Yerushalmi, Co-Founders and Senior Counsel of the American Freedom Law Center (AFLC), which represented Priests for Life.
Muise, who was lead counsel for Priests for Life throughout the protracted litigation, commented:
“We fought for five long years to achieve our goal of defending the religious rights of Priests for Life. Make no mistake, this was an important and necessary fight. And this victory is not simply a victory for Priests for Life – it is a victory for all freedom-loving Americans who cherish our very first freedom: religious liberty.”
Priests for Life’s initial lawsuit filed by AFLC was the fourth in the nation to be filed among what would turn out to be hundreds of legal challenges to the mandate. It was the lead case to come before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and Priests for Life v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was the second listed case in the U.S. Supreme Court action Zubik vs. Burwell.
The agreement requires the government to pay AFLC $139,626 in attorneys’ fees and costs.