Three nonprofit religious organizations, including a division of the Nashville-based Southern Baptist Convention, are suing the federal government over a controversial contraceptives regulation.
The organizations on Monday announced the class-action lawsuit against the federal requirement that employers cover the cost of contraceptives, including drugs that can cause abortions. The groups argue the requirement infringes on religious liberty.
The mandate has attracted dozens of similar lawsuits.
This latest filing, targeting the Department of Health and Human Services, was brought by GuideStone Financial Resources, the Dallas-based provider of health benefits to Southern Baptist churches.
GuideStone also provides benefits to more than 100 nonprofit ministries. Those include Oklahoma City-based Reaching Souls International and Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, Ga., two organizations that signed on to the lawsuit in order to represent the types of ministries expected to join in the class action, said Rod Miller, an attorney for GuideStone.
In the face of the criticism, the government created an exemption to its rule for churches and some church auxiliaries so they would not have to pay for contraception.
But religious organizations like those suing still fell under the mandate based on the federal tax code, and their leaders are objecting to the regulations on the grounds that they violate religious freedom, Miller said.
"We know the other ministry organizations that we serve share the same views on the sanctity of life," he said.
The lawsuit asks for an injunction to block the mandate, which is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Oklahoma by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and Locke Lord LLP, is the 74th against the government over its mandate, the groups said.
Earlier this year, the Catholic Diocese of Nashville sued over the same requirements, arguing that all Catholic groups should be exempt. The case was dismissed, and after briefly contesting the ruling, the diocese withdrew its appeal in April.