By Dave Andrusko
Earlier this week, we wrote about the Obama Administration’s dismal track record in court, defending its HHS mandate which compels employers to provide health coverage for drugs and procedures to which they have moral or religious objections.
Today it suffered another serious setback in a case brought against the mandate by the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, Diocese of Erie, and several affiliated nonprofit groups when U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab granted their request for an injunction.
“Without the injunction,” wrote the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Rich Lord, “the insurance administrators for the organizations — though not the dioceses themselves — would have had to start providing the coverage Jan. 1.”
“I was relieved, obviously, because the issue that we had been dealing with in this lawsuit is the protection of religious freedom,” said Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik, one of the plaintiffs in the case. “This is an absolutely critical decision. If it has to go to the Supreme Court, I’m moving with it all the way.”
Without the injunction these organizations faced massive fines. “We knew there would be at least a $2 million hit annually if there wasn’t some protection from the court,” said Susan Rauscher, executive director of Catholic Charities. “We’re happy that we can do business as usual.”
On the other side was Obama’s Department of Justice, which argued that not all the people these Catholic organizations serve are Catholic, nor are all the organization’s employees. Lord summarized the judge’s decision in three succinct paragraphs:
“Judge Schwab, though, adopted the diocesan argument that no distinction could be drawn between the charitable arms of the church and its houses of worship.
“The judge wrote in his 65-page opinion that he was ruling on whether ‘the Government will be permitted to sever the Catholic Church into two parts (i.e., worship and faith, and ‘good works’) — in other words, whether the Government will be successful in restricting the Right to the Free Exercise of Religion as set forth in the First Amendment to a Right to Worship only.’
“The judge wrote that he ‘is constrained to understand why religious employers such as Catholic Charities and Prince of Peace Center — which were born from the same religious faith, and premised upon the same religious tenets and principles, and operate as extensions and embodiments of the Church, but are not subsidiaries of a parent corporation — would not be treated the same as the Church itself with respect to the free exercise of that religion.’”
Bishop Zubik said, “What the judge essentially said in his decision was that faith without works is dead.”
Lord began his story by noting that the preliminary decision “could set the tone in a legal fight of national scope.”