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Judge Dismisses Major Lawsuit Against Obama HHS Mandate

by Steven Ertelt | Washington, DC | LifeNews.com | 7/17/12 7:00 PM

National, Politics

A federal judge has dismissed the lawsuit filed by attorneys general of several states against the Obama HHS mandate that requires to religious employers to pay for or refer women for abortion-causing drugs and birth control in violation of their religious liberties.

U.S. District Judge Warren Urbom of Lincoln, Nebraska dismissed the case the state attorney general there filed with several other colleagues from across the nation. he said the states did not have standing in court to bring the lawsuit against the Obamacare HHS mandate.

Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning’s office brought the lawsuit along with attorneys general of Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas. Catholic Social Services, Pius X High School and the Catholic Mutual Relief Society of America joined the Nebraska case against the mandate.

A Lincoln Journal Star report on the decision provided more details about the judge’s reason for dismissing the legal challenge:

Urbom sided with the U.S. Justice Department, which argued that the plaintiffs did not show that they faced the immediate threat of having to offer the coverage, because the federal government delayed enforcement of the rule until August 2013. That so-called “safe harbor” provision is to allow accommodations to be worked out for some religious groups.

The Justice Department also said the states lacked the legal grounds to sue over the provision because they don’t enjoy First Amendment protections.

“Although the rule that lies at the heart of the plaintiffs’ complaint establishes a definitive, final definition of ‘religious employer,’ the ACA’s contraceptive coverage requirements are not being enforced against non-exempted religious organizations, and the rule is currently undergoing a process of amendment to accommodate these organizations,” Urbom said.

“The plaintiffs face no direct and immediate harm, and one can only speculate whether the plaintiffs will ever feel any effects from the rule when the temporary enforcement safe harbor terminates. This case clearly involves ‘contingent future events that may not occur as anticipated, or indeed may not occur at all,’ … and therefore it is not ripe for review.

“None of the plaintiffs have established that they have standing to challenge the rule, and even if I were to assume that they did have standing, their claims are not ripe,” Urbom said.

Urbom said the plaintiffs “speculate that religious organization employers who do continue to provide health coverage to their employees will attempt to qualify for the rule’s religious employer exemption by ceasing to provide charitable services to persons who do not share the organizations’ religious views, and this in turn will cause those unserved persons to rely on state resources.

“Both alternatives allege hypothetical injuries to the states based on conjecture about the reactions of third parties, and the complaint simply does not allege facts showing that it is plausible — and not merely possible — that those reactions ‘have been or will be made’ in the manner that the plaintiffs suggest,” Urbom said.

The lawsuit alleged that the mandate violates the First Amendment rights of groups that object to the requirement to pay for birth control and drugs that may cause abortions.

“This violation of the [First] Amendment is a threat to every American, regardless of religious faith,” Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning said in a news release. “We will not stand idly by while our constitutionally guaranteed liberties are discarded by an administration that has sworn to uphold them.”

The lawsuit also alleges the “practical effect” of the mandate “will force religious employers to drop health insurance coverage,” in order to avoid violating their religious beliefs.

“Obamacare’s latest mandate tramples the First Amendment’s freedom of religion and compels people of faith to act contrary to their convictions,” Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said in a news release. “The very first amendment to our Constitution was intended to protect against this sort of government intrusion into our religious convictions.”

Abbott said the “so-called ‘accommodation’ was nothing but a shell game: the mandate still requires religious organizations to subsidize and authorize conduct that conflicts with their religious beliefs.”

In a previous letter signed by 12 attorneys general, they promise action in court should “this unconstitutional mandate be promulgated” and say they are “troubled by the unprecedented coercion of organizations and individuals to act contrary to their beliefs.” The attorneys general say the religious exemption is much too narrow to protect churches and religious groups fully and only includes organizations who “primarily employ those who share their religious tenants” and whose primary operational purpose is an “inculcation of religious values.”

They say the mandate represents “an impermissible violation of the Constitution’s First Amendment virtually unparalleled in American history.”

About the letter, Abbott said, ““The more we learn about Obamacare, the more unconstitutional it becomes. This mandate is a stunning trampling of freedom of religion by forcing religious-based hospitals and clinics to act contrary to their religious doctrine. These mandates force religious organizations and hospitals to subsidize products and moral judgments that clearly violate their beliefs.”

“I have pledged to coordinate an AG-led lawsuit to stop this direct challenge to religious liberty,” Bruning said. “I have been in contact with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who welcome and appreciate any assistance we can provide.”

He said it “unconstitutionally expands congressional authority and infringes upon individual liberty.”

A national poll Rasmussen Reports conducted finds Americans oppose the Obama administration mandate requiring religious employers to pay for coverage for birth control (which also includes drugs that may cause early abortions).

This new survey follows a previous Rasmussen poll asking, “The requirement to provide contraceptives for women violates deeply held beliefs of some churches and religious organizations. If providing such coverage violates the beliefs of a church or religious organization, should the government still require them to provide coverage for contraceptives?”

Some 50 percent of those polled said no while 39 percent of Americans agreed.

Leading pro-life groups are pushing for an amendmentin the Senate to overturn the mandate.

The mandate has become the subject of several lawsuits.

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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.