“There is no, ‘Trust us, changes are coming’ clause in the Constitution,” wrote Judge Brian Cogan in his ruling issued two weeks ago against a Justice Department motion to dismiss the Archdiocese of New York’s lawsuit against the HHS mandate. “To the contrary, the Bill of Rights itself, and the First Amendment in particular, reflect a degree of skepticism towards governmental self-restraint and self-correction.”
More federal judges are coming to the same conclusion. Earlier this week a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. issued a partial but significant victory to Wheaton College and Belmont Abbey College in their lawsuit against the Obama administration’s contraception and abortifacient mandate.
The Obama administration had announced plans to create a new rule protecting the religious liberties of these Christian colleges and other similarly situated religious groups. But to date, the administration has not yet taken the steps necessary to make that promise legally binding. Lower courts dismissed the colleges’ cases while the government contemplated a new rule, but the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit decided the cases should stay alive while it scrutinizes whether the government will meet its promised deadlines.
“The D.C. Circuit has now made it clear that government promises and press conferences are not enough to protect religious freedom,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. “The court is not going to let the government slide by on non-binding promises to fix the problem down the road.”