The pro-life group Priests for Life was one of the earliest organizations to file a lawsuit against the Obama administration over its HHS mandate. The mandate compels religious groups to pay for birth control drugs and drugs like ella that can cause very early abortions.
Priests for Life national director Father Frank Pavone released the following statement to LifeNews today in advance of tomorrow’s court hearing on its lawsuit, one of many dozens that have been filed against the mandate and that will eventually reach the Supreme Court.
“The Priests for Life lawsuit against the HHS mandate — the fourth such lawsuit to be introduced (in February 2012) in what are now dozens of cases — takes another step forward in federal court in Brooklyn, N.Y. tomorrow as attorneys will argue that the Obama administration has no basis for dismissing the suit.
“The government is using the same kind of arguments it has used in other lawsuits against the mandate brought by religious groups, namely, that because they have a religious exemption and in the light of promised changes in the mandate, these groups really aren’t being harmed, have nothing to worry about, and therefore no basis to sue the government.
“The case of Priests for Life is different from that of the other religious entities, however. We were not covered by the ‘religious exemption,’ and therefore the mandate was to be effective for us this past January 1.
“On December 20, attorneys Robert Muise and David Yerushalmi presented oral argument requesting that the court immediately halt enforcement of the mandate. The court strongly urged the government to enter into a stipulation to that effect. If an agreement was not reached by December 21, the court scheduled a hearing for December 26, at which time it was evident that the court would order an injunction against the mandate. The very next day, the federal government entered into a stipulation that it would not enforce the HHS mandate against Priests for Life for the year 2013.
“But January 1, 2014 is fast approaching.
“Tomorrow (April 11) our attorneys will argue that because the mandate is the law of the land right now, and because no actual or proposed changes from the government resolve our objections to the mandate, the court should move forward and judge this case on its merits (recognizing its ‘standing’ and ‘ripeness’) and protect our rights by issuing an injunction against the mandate.
“The Priests for Life lawsuit, the fourth of its kind, was actually the first to be filed after the Obama Administration announced, in February 2012, its ‘accommodations’ to those who object to the mandate. We realized from the outset that these were not accommodations at all, and neither were those promised more recently. No matter how one looks at it, we are still being forced to be the gateway to employees having access to products and services that we teach are immoral.
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“Just this past Monday, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, who chairs the U.S. Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, expressed ‘deep gratitude’ and ‘solidarity and appreciation’ for all those who have challenged the mandate in court. He said, ‘Their goal is nothing less than securing the freedom of the Church to continue to obey the Lord’s command—and, in turn, to serve the common good—by providing charitable ministries health care, education, and service to the poor, all without compromising Catholic beliefs…We continue to pray for the success of all of these lawsuits.’
“Priests for Life is grateful to our two lead attorneys on this case, Robert Muise (American Freedom Law Center) and Charles S. LiMandri, and their respective teams, for their expert and dedicated work on this lawsuit.
“Let’s move forward to victory.