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Dozens of Catholic Groups Sue Obama Admin Over HHS Mandate

by Steven Ertelt | Washington, DC | LifeNews.com | 5/21/12 12:01 PM

National

Notre Dame, Franciscan University of Steubenville, and dozens of Catholic hospitals and organizations have filed a total of 12 lawsuits today against Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and the Obama administration over the controversial HHS mandate.

The lawsuit challenges the Obama administration’s unprecedented mandate that attacks the freedom to practice religion without government interference. Under the HHS mandate, employers must provide insurance coverage that includes abortion-inducing drugs, as well as contraceptives and sterilization procedures.

Franciscan University maintains that the requirement to fund and facilitate such activities violates its core religious and moral convictions as a Catholic university.

“Franciscan University’s mission is and always has been to teach from the heart of the Church,” said University President Father Terence Henry, TOR. “The Obama administration’s mandate is a grave threat to our ability to carry out that mission. It makes it impossible for us to operate freely as a Catholic institution without overbearing and invasive governmental interference.”

Other plaintiffs are all Catholic organizations and include Catholic dioceses, schools, universities, and charitable organizations. Numbered among the plaintiffs are the Archdioceses of New York, Washington, D.C., and St. Louis, as well as the Dioceses of Dallas, Ft. Worth, Rockville Centre, Pittsburgh, and the Michigan Catholic Conference, which represents all seven dioceses in the state.

“The Church is speaking with one unified voice on this issue,” said Father Henry. “Every single American bishop has condemned this unjust mandate as an unconscionable violation of religious liberty. If allowed to stand, it will coerce Christians into cooperating with acts that violate core tenets of our faith.”

When first proposed in August 2011 by the Department of Health and Human Services, the mandate was met by strong objections from numerous Catholic bishops, hospitals, and institutions. Although a small exemption for some religious institutions was written into the original proposal, it was too narrow to cover the vast majority of them, particularly those, like Catholic universities, which both employ and serve people of other faiths or no faith at all. The mandate effectively puts the federal government in the position of deciding which organizations are “religious enough,” the lawsuits claim.

In late January 2012, President Obama and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that the mandate would go into force as originally planned, with no adequate accommodations made for individuals or groups who objected on religious grounds.

The University of Notre Dame said the requirement would still call on religious groups to “facilitate” coverage “for services that violate the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

“The federal mandate requires Notre Dame and similar religious organizations to provide in their insurance plans abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilization procedures, which are contrary to Catholic teaching. It also authorizes the government to determine which organizations are sufficiently ‘religious’ to warrant an exemption from the requirement,” the statement said.

Our Sunday Visitor, the respected publication, is also a party to one of the lawsuits and issued an editorial explaining why.

“Today, Our Sunday Visitor stands proudly with our fellow Catholic apostolates and with our bishops in resisting this challenge. We ask all of our readers to stand with us – in charity, praying first and foremost for conversions of heart; in civility, arguing the facts of this case without recourse to bitter partisanship or political rhetoric; and in solidarity, knowing that whatever sacrifices we bear and whatever challenges we endure, we are only doing what is our responsibility as American citizens practicing our faith in the public square.”

A list of entities suing the Obama administration over the mandate:

1. D.D.C. Lawsuit
o Archdiocese of Washington
o Consortium of Catholic Academies
o Archbishop Carroll High School
o Catholic Charities of D.C.
o The Catholic University of America

2. E.D.N.Y. Lawsuit
o Diocese of Rockville Centre
o Catholic Health Services of Long Island
o Catholic Charities of Rockville Centre
o Archdiocese of N.Y.
o ArchCare

3. W.D.Pa. (Erie Div.) Lawsuit
o Diocese of Erie
o St. Martin Center
o Prince of Peace Center

4. W.D.Pa. (Pitt. Div.) Lawsuit
o Diocese of Pittsburgh
o Catholic Charities of Diocese of Pittsburgh
o Catholic Cemeteries Association of Diocese of Pittsburgh

5. N.D.Tex. (Dallas Div.) Lawsuit
o Diocese of Dallas

6. N.D.Tex. (Fort Worth Div.) Lawsuit
o Diocese of Fort Worth

7. S.D. Ohio (Columbus Div.) Lawsuit
o Franciscan University of Steubenville
o Michigan Catholic Conference

8. S.D.Miss. (Gulfport Div.) Lawsuit
o Diocese of Jackson
o Catholic Charities of Jackson
o Vicksburg Catholic School
o St. Joseph’s Catholic School
o Diocese of Biloxi
o De l’Epee Deaf Center Inc.
o Catholic Social & Community Services Inc.
o Resurrection Catholic School
o Sacred Heart Catholic School
o St. Dominic Health Services

9. N.D.Ind. (South Bend Div.) Lawsuit
o The University of Notre Dame

10. N.D. Ind. (Fort Wayne Div.) Lawsuit
o Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend
o Catholic Charities of Fort Wayne-South Bend
o St. Anne Home
o Franciscan Alliance
o Our Sunday Visitor
o University of St. Francis

11. N.D.Ill. Lawsuit
o Diocese of Joliet
o Catholic Charities of Joliet
o Diocese of Springfield
o Catholic Charities of Springfield

12. E.D.Mo. (St. Louis Div.)
o Archdiocese of St. Louis
o Catholic Charities of St. Louis

The full Notre Dame statement appears below, and the legal complaint can be found here.

CLICK LIKE IF YOU’RE PRO-LIFE!

 

May 21, 2012

A Message from Father John Jenkins, C.S.C.,
President, University of Notre Dame

Today the University of Notre Dame filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana regarding a recent mandate from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  That mandate requires Notre Dame and similar religious organizations to provide in their insurance plans abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilization procedures, which are contrary to Catholic teaching.  The decision to file this lawsuit came after much deliberation, discussion and efforts to find a solution acceptable to the various parties.

Let me say very clearly what this lawsuit is not about:  it is not about preventing women from having access to contraception, nor even about preventing the Government from providing such services.  Many of our faculty, staff and students — both Catholic and non-Catholic — have made conscientious decisions to use contraceptives.  As we assert the right to follow our conscience, we respect their right to follow theirs.  And we believe that, if the Government wishes to provide such services, means are available that do not compel religious organizations to serve as its agents.  We do not seek to impose our religious beliefs on others; we simply ask that the Government not impose its values on the University when those values conflict with our religious teachings. We have engaged in conversations to find a resolution that respects the consciences of all and we will continue to do so.

This filing is about the freedom of a religious organization to live its mission, and its significance goes well beyond any debate about contraceptives.  For if we concede that the Government can decide which religious organizations are sufficiently religious to be awarded the freedom to follow the principles that define their mission, then we have begun to walk down a path that ultimately leads to the undermining of those institutions.  For if one Presidential Administration can override our religious purpose and use religious organizations to advance policies that undercut our values, then surely another Administration will do the same for another very different set of policies, each time invoking some concept of popular will or the public good, with the result these religious organizations become mere tools for the exercise of government power, morally subservient to the state, and not free from its infringements.  If that happens, it will be the end of genuinely religious organizations in all but name.

The details of the process that led to the mandate are publicly known.  In an Interim Final Ruling issued August 3, 2011, the federal government required employers to provide the objectionable services. A narrow exemption was given to religious institutions that serve and employ primarily members of their own faith, but, departing from a long tradition in federal law, organizations like Notre Dame—schools, universities, hospitals and charitable organizations that serve and employ people of all faiths and none—were granted no exemption, but instead were made subject to the law to the same extent as any secular organization.  On September 28, I submitted a formal comment encouraging the Administration to follow precedent and adopt a broader exemption.

Despite some positive indications, the Administration announced on January 20, 2012, that its interim rule would be adopted as final without change.  After an outcry from across the political spectrum, President Obama announced on February 10 that his Administration would attempt to accommodate the concerns of religious organizations.  We were encouraged by this announcement and have engaged in conversations with Administration officials to find an acceptable resolution.  Although I do not question the good intentions and sincerity of all involved in these discussions, progress has not been encouraging and an announcement seeking comments on how to structure any accommodation (HHS Advanced Notification of Proposed Rule Making on preventative services policy, March 16, 2012) provides little in the way of a specific, substantive proposal or a definite timeline for resolution.   Moreover, the process laid out in this announcement will last months, making it impossible for us to plan for and implement any changes to our health plans by the government-mandated deadlines. We will continue in earnest our discussions with Administration officials in an effort to find a resolution, but, after much deliberation, we have concluded that we have no option but to appeal to the courts regarding the fundamental issue of religious freedom.

It is for these reasons that we have filed this lawsuit neither lightly nor gladly, but with sober determination.