Forty three Catholic dioceses and organizations from across the U.S. have filed a dozen lawsuits against the Obama administration for making employers offer workers health insurance plans that cover contraception.
The lawsuits filed on Monday in eight states and the District of Columbia argue that the federal mandate issued as part of the health reform law violates fundamental religious liberties.
When the birth control rule was made public earlier this year, it has drawn heavy criticism from bishops in every diocese in the U.S. They warned that the regulation could force Catholic schools, hospitals and charitable agencies to stop offering their services.
At least 11 previous lawsuits have already been filed against the mandate by states, colleges, private employers and organizations throughout the U.S., according to Catholic News Agency.
The Archdioceses of New York, St. Louis and Washington, D.C, are part of separate lawsuits against the measure, as are Catholic Charities organizations in Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri and Indiana.
The legal action against the federal government was praised by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, who called it ‘a compelling display of the unity of the Church in defense of religious liberty.’
‘We have tried negotiation with the administration and legislation with the Congress – and we’ll keep at it – but there’s still no fix,’ Cardinal Dolan said in a statement.
Some Catholic universities, including the University of Notre Dame and Franciscan University of Steubenville, also joined the lawsuits over the controversial mandate.
Notre Dame President Reverend John Jenkins, C.S.C., said the lawsuit was filed ‘neither lightly nor gladly, but with sober determination.’
In an email sent to university employees, Jenkins wrote that while the administration of Notre Dame does not wish to force its religious beliefs on others, it expects the same from the government when it comes to values that conflict with Catholic teachings.
This marks a change in position at Notre Dame. In February, the university had applauded President Obama for making a pledge to come to a compromise with religious groups on the issue of birth control, according to the Huffington Post.
Meanwhile, the liberal advocacy group Catholics United accused the bishops of serving a ‘right-wing political agenda’ by filing the lawsuits.
However, the mandate created a firestorm among religious leaders and faith-based organizations, which claimed that the exception for religious groups was too narrow.
The original rule generally allowed churches and other houses of worship to opt out, but kept the requirement in place for religiously affiliated non-for-profit groups, including hospitals, colleges and charities.
In response to the heated rhetoric, Mr Obama offered to soften the rule so that insurers would pay for birth control instead of religious groups.
However, the bishops dismissed the accommodation, which is still under discussion, as insufficient for protecting religious freedom.
Now, the bishops plan to launch a national campaign for religious freedom in the two weeks leading up to the July Fourth holiday.
Source: Daily Mail
MCC Legal Response To HHS Mandate
The US Department of Health and Human Services has issued a mandate that would force Catholic institutions everywhere to choose between violating their own teachings and violating federal law – and suffering harsh penalties. The Michigan Catholic Conference, headed by the bishops of Michigan’s seven dioceses, recognize this action by the government as a serious threat to religious liberty and on May 21st filed a lawsuit in federal court to challenge the mandate on the basis of the First Amendment of the US Constitution.