A North Dakota federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction on behalf of a Christian employers association that prevents the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) from forcing those employers to fund “gender transition” medical procedures in violation of their religious beliefs.
Judge Daniel M. Traynor ruled that at this stage of the litigation, begun in October 2021, there is a “likelihood of success” that the Christian Employers Alliance (CEA), both for itself and on behalf of its members, will ultimately prevail on its claim that the U.S. government’s mandates regarding gender identity violate both the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act’s (RFRA) guarantees of religious freedom.
The controversy surrounding the U.S. government’s attempts to force nonprofit and for-profit employers of faith to fund, and religious healthcare providers to perform, gender transition procedures began in 2016 and has been in and out of various courts since then. Even the rules themselves have changed as different administrations revoked or reinstated them over the years since, leaving the state of the law, and employers trying to protect their rights, in a state of confusion.
The U.S. Supreme Court added to the confusion as well in 2020 in its Bostock v. Clayton County decision, where the court ruled that “sex” as that term is used in the federal employment discrimination law known as Title VII, is broad enough to include sexual orientation and gender identity. That decision didn’t touch on religious freedom rights of employers, but agencies like the EEOC rushed to blur such distinctions in 2021 by issuing a “technical guidance” that went far beyond Bostock’s language.
The North Dakota ruling solidly backs the religious freedom rights of religious employers who believe in the biblical account in Genesis 1 of God’s creation of mankind as male and female.
“The Alliance must either violate its sincerely held beliefs or face monetary losses, fines, and even civil liabilities,” Judge Traynor stated in his opinion. “The Plaintiffs and their members face a very real irreparable harm if they are either forced to comply or if they refuse to comply.”
CEA’s attorney, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) Legal Counsel Jacob Reed, spoke about the importance of the ruling in a press release:
“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,” Reed 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.”
CEA President Shannon Royce also celebrated the court victory along with ADF.
“The administration’s 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,” she said in the same press release.
“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. We are pleased that we can continue to act consistent with those beliefs while our lawsuit proceeds and look forward to ultimately prevailing with our case.”
The case is Christian Employers Alliance v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
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