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Bible Publisher Won’t Have to Fund Birth Control Coverage

Nov. 16 (Bloomberg) -- A Bible publisher won a temporary order blocking the health-care reform law’s requirement that employers provide insurance coverage for contraceptives.

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton in Washington today ruled that the law’s coverage mandate “substantially burdens” the religious exercise of Tyndale House Publishers Inc. by imposing “considerable” financial penalties for failing to offer birth control coverage to its 260 full-time employees.

The mandate “places the plaintiffs in the untenable position of choosing either to violate their religious beliefs by providing coverage of the contraceptives at issue or to subject their business to the continual risk of the imposition of enormous penalties for its noncompliance,” Walton wrote.

That “places substantial pressure on the plaintiffs to violate their beliefs,” the judge wrote in issuing a preliminary injunction

Tyndale, a publisher of Christian books based in Carol Stream, Illinois, sued the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Oct. 2 -- one day after the company was required to offer birth control coverage in its insurance plan.

Tyndale argues the law violates the religious freedoms of the company and its owners, “who are committed to biblical principles including the belief that all human beings are created in the image and likeness of God from the moment of their conception.”

Charles Miller, a Justice Department spokesman, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail message seeking comment on the ruling.

The case is Tyndale House Publishers Inc. v. Sebelius, 12-cv-01635, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

To contact the reporter on this story: Tom Schoenberg in Washington at tschoenberg@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.

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