Federal Judge Blocks HHS Transgender Surgery Rule for Religious Employers

ADF wins first step in case that seeks to protect religious freedom

Federal Judge Blocks HHS Transgender Surgery Rule for Religious Employers

ADF wins first step in case that seeks to protect religious freedom

A federal district court has blocked the enforcement of a U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) mandate that would force nonprofit and for-profit religious employers to cover transgender surgery and care. The legal effort is being led by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which is representing Christian Employers Alliance (CEA).

District Judge Daniel M. Taynor, who sits on the U.S. District Court of North Dakota, ruled on May 16 that CEA is likely to win the case on its “merits.”

He also concluded, “No government agency ought to be in the business of evaluating the sincerity of another’s religious beliefs.”

ADF Legal Counsel Jacob Reed, who argued the case on behalf of CEA, celebrated the decision.

“All employers and healthcare providers, including those in the Christian Employers Alliance, have the constitutional right to conduct their business and render treatment in a manner consistent with their deeply held religious beliefs,” he said. “The employers we represent believe that God purposefully created humans as either male or female, and so it would violate their religious beliefs to pay for or perform life-altering medical procedures or surgeries that seek to change one’s biological sex. The court was on firm ground to halt enforcement of these unlawful mandates that disrespect people of faith.”

Announced in March 2022, the Biden administration explained that it would “interpret and enforce section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act’s prohibition on discrimination on the basis of sex in certain health programs to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation.”

This change would force employers who receive any federal financial assistance for health insurance and health activities, including hospitals, to cover transgender surgeries and procedures on their health plan. As there are reportedly 726 faith-based hospitals in the United States, representing roughly 11% of all hospitals, that could impact tens of thousands of Americans.

ADF also challenged HHS’s “reinterpretation of ‘sex’ in federal law to include gender identity, thereby forcing religious healthcare providers who receive federal funding to physically perform or facilitate surgeries and procedures that conflict with their deeply held religious beliefs.”

Shannon Royce, who is the president of CEA, said in a statement after the initial hearing in April: “Despite this Administration’s grave overreach of its purpose and authority, CEA counts it a privilege to stand for truth—that all people are created in the image of God as male or female. These mandates are crippling for the countless Christian-owned and operated businesses seeking to care well for their employees without the fear of punishing fines, burdensome litigation costs, the loss of federal funds, and even criminal penalties.

“As stewards of the health and safety of our valued employees, it is unconscionable and unconstitutional to be mandated to provide, pay for, or promote services and procedures that directly contradict our deeply held religious beliefs.”

Photo: Alexander Korzh/Alamy

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