For decades, U.S. Catholic agencies have been on the front lines helping to provide young immigrants and refugees with the physical and emotional support they need after they arrive in America.
But a new lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union could put the much-needed aid programs in jeopardy.
The ACLU recently filed a lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), arguing that the government should not give money to the Catholic aid programs because they do not refer or provide abortions or birth control to young, unaccompanied minor refugees and immigrants, the New York Times reports. The ACLU argues in the lawsuit that the agencies are legally required to provide access to contraception and abortion because they receive government funding.
Here is more from the report:
But the lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Francisco, asserts that the social agencies get federal money to offer a full range of health services, including contraception and abortion. And by allowing the agencies to deny any of those services on religious grounds, it argues, the federal government is violating the First Amendment prohibition on establishment of religion.
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Mark Weber, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, said the agency would not comment on pending litigation.
… Drawing on thousands of internal documents and emails, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the A.C.L.U. complaint provides sketchy details of about two dozen cases over the last five years in which pregnant girls, many of whom said they had been raped, requested abortions. In several cases, according to the complaint, the girls had to be transferred to a different caregiver, eventually obtaining abortions.
Many of the U.S. agencies that provide support to the young refugees and immigrants are Catholic and “have a long history of providing high-quality care,” according to the newspaper.
According to the pro-abortion website Mother Jones, the Catholic agencies help young immigrants and refugees who are referred to them from the Office of Refugee Resettlement. The agencies are supposed to screen them for abuse, and provide them with legal help, education, physical and mental health care and, according the ACLU, abortions, the report states.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops,which oversees the agencies, received almost $10 million in government funding to help unaccompanied minor immigrants and refugees in 2014, according to the report.
In a similar move attacking religious freedom, the ACLU also filed a lawsuit in March against the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to obtain its records about the federal funds it received to help human trafficking victims, LifeNews reported.
In a statement about the USCCB lawsuit, the ACLU admitted that it takes issue with the Catholic group for having the practices it does “because of its religious beliefs.” The practices it objects to, not surprisingly, involve opposing abortion.
The USCCB received a $2 million grant from the federal government recently to help the victims of human trafficking, according to the ACLU.
ACLU Senior Staff Attorney Brigitte Amiri said, “We are shocked and deeply concerned to see history repeating itself with millions of taxpayer dollars funneled into the hands of a religious group that has a long history of refusing critical health care services to the most vulnerable people in their care.”
This “critical health care” is talking about abortion, which, by not supporting, lets the group “impose their religious beliefs on others,” according to the ACLU.
This is not the first time the ACLU has tried to fight against Catholic groups for their pro-life position. In March, LifeNews also reported on the ACLU’s lawsuit against the Trinity Health Corporation, a Catholic hospital group, because its doctors refused to do abortions.