Many of the voters who put President Donald Trump in office are scratching their heads over a decision by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to request a 60-day delay in order to continue negotiations with religious organizations that have requested relief from the onerous birth control mandate. Why don’t they just drop the case?
According to the Catholic News Agency, religious organizations involved in the case are concerned that the action does not reflect promises made during the presidential campaign.
During the campaign, Trump promised to drop the mandate and plaintiffs hoped he would simply drop the government’s appeal. Instead, the administration asked for an extension, an indication that they may want to take the next step in the litigation process. The DOJ reportedly asked for 60 extra days to continue negotiating an agreement with East Texas Baptist University and several other plaintiffs as instructed by the Supreme Court last year.
“The government has a chance to do the right thing here. It got it wrong for five years in these cases, almost six years,” said Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents many non-profits in HHS mandate cases.
“And they can do the right thing by dropping their appeals that are in favor of the mandate, and admitting that they were wrong on the issue of the contraceptive mandate, as applied to religious non-profits,” Rassbach told CNA earlier this week.
For conservative lawyers, why the government didn’t just drop the case on Monday of this week, when the stay expired, remains a mystery.
However, one problem could be the fact that the Trump administration has yet to fully staff the DOJ which means the same liberal lawyers who were working to enforce the mandate are still on the job.
According to The Washington Examiner, one of those lawyers is Alisa Klein, who argued on behalf of the government in the Hobby Lobby case and is a former clerk for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
However, as Catholic Vote points out, the Trump administration has hired 14 lawyers from the Jones Day law firm, the same firm that spearheaded the litigation against the HHS mandate. Lawyers from this firm represented Notre Dame, the Diocese of Pittsburgh, and several other religious organizations in cases challenging the mandate.
“Trump administration hired a bunch of people who were already fighting the HHS mandate to serve in the Justice Department. That’s a good sign,” writes Joshua Mercer.
However, Bill Donohue of the Catholic League, isn’t convinced. “Trump officials say the delay is necessary because many staff positions have not yet been filled, and the issues involved are ‘complex.’ But that hasn’t stopped the Justice Department from settling other lawsuits. Moreover, this business about the mandate being ‘complex” is a dodge: either the mandate is an affront to religious liberty or it is not.”
In the meantime, Helen Alvare and the Women Speak for Themselves movement is calling upon Americans to take action by sending a polite letter or email to the new head of the HHS, Secretary Tom Price, your representative, and to President Trump himself, asking them to get rid of the mandate.
Please send your messages to:
Secretary Tom Price
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
Hubert H. Humphrey Building
200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20201
President Donald Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Congressional Representative Contact Information