Some 15 Catholic colleges and universities have signed on to a new legal brief in support of lawsuits filed against the Obama administration over its controversial pro-abortion HHS mandate.
The Cardinal Newman Society has signed and helped organize Catholic college signers for the brief supporting Belmont Abbey College and Wheaton College. Both institutions demand immediate exemption from the Administration’s “contraceptive mandate,” which requires religious colleges to insure both employees and students for sterilization and contraception, including drugs that cause abortion.
The amicus brief was authored and filed Friday by attorneys of the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which has worked closely with Catholic and other Christian colleges in defense of their constitutional rights.
“Belmont Abbey is not alone. Every faithful Catholic college is already suffering the damage caused by this ruinous mandate, which demands that they violate their deeply held Catholic beliefs,” said Bob Laird, Director of Programs for The Cardinal Newman Society. “Additionally, Christian colleges, businesses, and other employers who fear the loss of their religious freedom are similarly affected by the mandate. This amicus brief represents a united front in opposition to the Obama administration’s outrageous violation of religious freedom.”
Catholic colleges signing ADF the amicus brief are:
· Benedictine College (Kan.)
· Catholic Distance University
· Christendom College (Va.)
· College of Saint Mary Magdalen (N.H.)
· College of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More (Tex.)
· DeSales University (Pa.)
· Holy Spirit College (Ga.)
· Ignatius-Angelicum Liberal Studies Program
· John Paul the Great Catholic University (Ca.)
· Mount St. Mary’s University (Md.)
· St. Gregory’s University (Ok.)
· Thomas Aquinas College (Ca.)
· Thomas More College of Liberal Arts (N.H.)
· University of Mary (N.D.)
· Wyoming Catholic College (Wyo.)
Other Christian colleges and business owners signing the brief have all joined separate lawsuits against the mandate. They include Biola University, Geneva College, Grace Schools (which includes Grace College and Seminary), Louisiana College, and the owners of Seneca Hardwood Lumber Company and Hercules Industries.
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Belmont Abbey College and Wheaton College are appealing dismissals of their lawsuits by two judges on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Neither judge ruled on the merits of the cases, but instead denied that the colleges had suffered harm because of the Obama administration’s “safe harbor” provision, which has delayed federal enforcement of the contraceptive mandate for one year.
But that safe harbor is “illusory,” argues the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty in its consolidated appeal filed on October 5. The delay only provides a temporary reprieve from massive fines on the colleges, but the mandate is in effect and already puts the colleges at a disadvantage when trying to hire faculty and other employees, who face the prospect of losing their employer-sponsored health insurance.
In the amicus brief filed last Friday, ADF and the signers explain how the contraceptive mandate “is not the least restrictive means of advancing a compelling governmental interest.” The Religious Freedom Restoration Act allows the federal government to “burden a person’s exercise of religion” only if the action “furthers a compelling government interest” and “is the least restrictive means” of doing so.
Instead, the brief argues, research indicates that mandatory contraceptive coverage will not have a significant impact in reducing unwanted pregnancies, which is the government’s apparent justification for the mandate. Moreover, the Obama administration cannot claim the mandate is “compelling” for most religious employers when already about 100 million Americans are exempted in “grandfathered” plans and at least IRS-recognized churches are also exempt. Finally, there are options for reducing unwanted pregnancy and making contraception widely available that are far less restrictive than forcing religious employers to include it in their insurance plans.