By Dave Andrusko
Forty-three Catholic dioceses, schools, hospitals, social service agencies, and other institutions filed suit today, accusing Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services of violating the First Amendment and federal law by requiring Catholic organizations to “sacrifice their beliefs in order to be able to continue their mission of serving all people in need.”
The lawsuit is the latest to challenge the HHS mandate in court, following multiple lawsuits which are already working their way through the legal pipeline.
Catholic universities joining in the lawsuits included, The Catholic University of America, Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, the University of St. Francis in Indiana, and the University of Notre Dame.
In all, 12 lawsuits were filed simultaneously in various U.S. district courts around the country Monday. “The defendants in each case were [HHS Secretary Kathleen] Sebelius, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, along with their departments,” the Catholic News Service (CNS) reported.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, whose archdiocese is among the plaintiffs, issued a statement applauding the lawsuits. He wrote
“We have tried negotiation with the Administration and legislation with the Congress – and we’ll keep at it – but there’s still no fix. Time is running out, and our valuable ministries and fundamental rights hang in the balance, so we have to resort to the courts now. Though the Conference is not a party to the lawsuits, we applaud this courageous action by so many individual dioceses, charities, hospitals and schools across the nation, in coordination with the law firm of Jones Day. It is also a compelling display of the unity of the Church in defense of religious liberty. It’s also a great show of the diversity of the Church’s ministries that serve the common good and that are jeopardized by the mandate – ministries to the poor, the sick, and the uneducated, to people of any faith or no faith at all.”
Cardinal Dolan also is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which is not a party to these lawsuits.
What is at issue is the Obama Administration’s infamous mandate requiring religious institutions and individuals of conscience to pay for health insurance plans that cover medical procedures and drugs contrary to their religious beliefs and consciences. As National Right to Life was the first to point out during the debate over ObamaCare, a provision dealing with “preventive health services” would empower the Secretary of Health and Human Services to mandate coverage of any medical service, including abortion, merely by adding the service to an expandable list. A conflict was inevitable, only the depth and breadth would be in question.
“We need to go to the court and say we are a church institution, we are a provider of health care and, according to the U.S. Constitution, the laws must protect our religious freedom,” said Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron. “We have a very particular case to make.”
CNS quoted Holy Cross Father John I. Jenkins, president of Notre Dame, who said the decision to file the lawsuit “came after much deliberation, discussion and efforts to find a solution acceptable to the various parties.” He added,
“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.”
According to the Washington Post, the lawsuit for the Archdiocese of Washington “is part of a broader communications campaign launched Monday by the archdiocese called ‘Preserve Religious Freedom,’ which features a special prayer to be said daily at 3 p.m. to support the effort.”
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