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Catholic Business Group Sues Obama Admin Over HHS Mandate

by Steven Ertelt | Washington, DC | LifeNews.com | 5/8/12 4:31 PM

National

A Catholic organization for owners and operators of small businesses has filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration over the HHS mandate it implemented that forces religious groups to pay for birth control and drugs that may cause abortions.

The Thomas More Law Center, a national pro-life law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, today announced it has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the HHS mandate, on behalf of Legatus, the nation’s largest organization of top Catholic business CEOs and professional leaders. Also joining in the lawsuit as plaintiffs are the Weingartz Supply Company, a Michigan retailer since 1945, and its president, who is a member of Legatus.

The 42-page complaint was filed late yesterday afternoon against the Obama administration in the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

Legatus was founded in 1987 by Tom Monaghan, the former owner of Domino’s Pizza, to bring together Catholic businessmen. The lawsuit was filed on the 25th anniversary of its founding.  Legatus currently has over 4,000 members in 73 chapters located in 31 states.

The first paragraph of the lawsuit succinctly sets forth the nature of the case: “This is a case about religious freedom. Thomas Jefferson, a Founding Father of our country, principal author of the Declaration of Independence, and our third president, when describing the construct of our Constitution proclaimed, ‘No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprises of the civil authority.’”

Richard Thompson, president of the pro-life law firm, commented on the lawsuit:  “Whether you are a Catholic or Protestant or have no religion at all, the free exercise of religion and right of conscience is our most fundamental human right and must be vigorously defended on behalf of all Americans.  Or else our Constitution becomes nothing more than a piece of paper with nice sounding words.  That’s why I believe every American regardless of religious beliefs has a stake in the successful outcome of this lawsuit.”

The purpose of the lawsuit is to seek a court ruling that permanently blocks the implementation of the HHS Mandate requiring employers and individuals to obtain insurance coverage for abortions and contraception on the grounds that it imposes clear violations of conscience on Americans who morally object to abortion and contraception.

The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the HHS Mandate under the First Amendment rights to the Free Exercise of Religion and Free Speech and the Establishment Clause.   It also claims that the HHS Mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Administrative Procedure Act enacted by Congress.

Father Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, issued a statement about the latest lawsuit, saying he is glad it has been filed along with the one his organization submitted:  “I congratulate Legatus for deciding to jump into the legal assault on the HHS Mandate. This brings the total to ten lawsuits, including that of Priests for Life. It is a strategic benefit to have various lawsuits in different parts of the country, so that more courts get involved in ruling on the issues involved, and creating the potential kind of conflict that the Supreme Court may be more likely to resolve.”

The Obama administration currently faces several lawsuits over the mandate, including two filed by the Alliance Defense Fund.

In February, ADF Senior Counsel Gregory Baylor joined Geneva College President Ken Smith at a press conference to announce a new federal lawsuit against the Obama administration over what ADF and the college call its “unconstitutional mandate that religious employers provide abortifacients, sterilization, and contraception to employees regardless of religious or moral objections.”

“People of faith shouldn’t be punished by the state for following that faith in making decisions for themselves or their organizations,” said Baylor. “Every American should know that a government with the power to do this to anyone can do this–and worse–to everyone.”

ADF attorneys have also filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Louisiana College. The new lawsuit filed with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, Louisiana College v. Sebelius, argues that the mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as well as the First and Fifth amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

Mike Johnson, dean of Louisiana College’s Pressler School of Law, said,  “The Obama administration has purposely transformed a non-existent problem–access to contraception–into a constitutional crisis. This mandate offers no choice; Americans either comply and abandon their convictions or resist and be punished.”

Meanwhile, more than a dozen state attorneys general have signed onto a joint letter Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning started coordinating  against the controversial Obama mandate requiring religious employers to cover birth control and drugs that can cause abortions.

Bruning has contacted each of his colleagues in 49 states and has already been joined by a dozen, including South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. Together, the three lawmakers have co-signed a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis over the Obama mandate.

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Also, the largest Catholic pro-life group and Catholic television station have filed suit against the new Obama mandate that forces religious employers like them to pay for birth control and abortion-causing drugs in employee health insurance. The EWTN Global Catholic Network filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Birmingham, Alabama against the Department of Health & Human Services, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and other government agencies seeking to stop the imposition of the anti-conscience mandate as well as asking the court for a declaratory judgment that the mandate is unconstitutional.

Priests for Life, a New York based international pro-life organization of Catholic clergy and laity, filed a lawsuit against the Obama Administration in an effort to seek injunctive relief from impending regulations that would require the organization to pay for employee health insurance that covers abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization.

The panel that put together the mandate has been condemned for only having pro-abortion members even though polling shows Americans are opposed to the mandate.

More than 50 members of Congress banded together at a press conference to demand legislation to stop the new mandate pro-abortion President Barack Obama put in place forcing religious employers to pay for insurance coverage including birth control and abortion-inducing drugs.

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry held a press conference with supporters of the bipartisan, bicameral Respect for Rights of Conscience Act. His legislation would protect the religious liberty and conscience rights of every American who objects to being forced by the strong-arm of government to pay for drugs and procedures recently mandated by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The Fortenberry bill currently has the support of approximately 220 Members of Congress and Senators, the most strongly-supported legislative remedy to the controversial HHS mandate.  This measure would repeal the controversial mandate, amending the 2010 health care law to preserve conscience rights for religious institutions, health care providers, and small businesses who pay for health care coverage.

H.R. 1179 enjoys the endorsements of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, National Right to Life Committee, Americans United for Life, and other organizations.  Numerous other organizations, including the Christian Medical Association and Family Research Council, have urged support of the bill.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops  issued a statement saying Obama’s revised mandate involves “needless government intrusion in the internal governance of religious institutions” and it urged Congress to overturn the rule and promised a potential lawsuit.

Congressman Steve Scalise has led a bipartisan letter with 154 co-signers calling on the Obama Administration to reverse its mandate forcing religious organizations to include drugs that can cause abortion and birth control in the health care plans of their employees.

The original mandate was so egregious that even the normally reliably liberal and pro-abortion USA Today condemned it in an editorial titled, “Contraception mandate violates religious freedom.”

The administration initially approved a recommendation from the Institute of Medicine suggesting that it force insurance companies to pay for birth control and drugs that can cause abortions under the Obamacare government-run health care program.

The IOM recommendation, opposed by pro-life groups, called for the Obama administration to require insurance programs to include birth control — such as the morning after pill or the ella drug that causes an abortion days after conception — in the section of drugs and services insurance plans must cover under “preventative care.” The companies will likely pass the added costs on to consumers, requiring them to pay for birth control and, in some instances, drug-induced abortions of unborn children in their earliest days.

The HHS accepted the IOM guidelines that “require new health insurance plans to cover women’s preventive services” and those services include “FDA-approved contraception methods and contraceptive counseling” — which include birth control drugs like Plan B and ella that can cause abortions. The Health and Human Services Department commissioned the report from the Institute, which advises the federal government and shut out pro-life groups in meetings leading up to the recommendations.