By Dave Andrusko
My apologies for being tardy in reporting on the decision of U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan to issue a permanent injunction in response to a lawsuit challenging the Obama mandate requiring employers to provide health coverage for drugs and procedures to which they have moral or religious objections.
Judge Cogan barred the Obama administration from enforcing the mandate against four not-for-profit affiliates of the Catholic Archdiocese of New York: Catholic Health Care System, Catholic Health Services of Long Island, Cardinal Spellman High School and Monsignor Farrell High School. They collectively challenged the mandate as an infringement of religious freedom.
The decision did not come as a surprise. As NRL News Today reported a year ago, Judge Cogan not only allowed the suit to go forward but had harsh words to say about the Obama administration.
in his recent 41-page decision, Judge Cogan wrote, the groups “have demonstrated that the mandate, despite the accommodation, compels them to perform acts that are contrary to their religion.” He added, “And there can be no doubt that the coercive pressure here is substantial.”
“The court has correctly cut through the artificial construct which essentially made faith-based organizations other than churches and other houses of worship second-class citizens with second-class First Amendment protections,” Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, said in a statement. “Religious freedom is our ‘First Freedom,’ guaranteed in the Constitution of the United States. This decision wisely and properly affirms that this freedom must extend beyond merely being free to choose how we worship, and must include how we act in accord with our religious beliefs.”
His explanation of what was/is at stake is worth quoting at greater length. He wrote
“At issue were the final mandate rules promulgated by HHS, which effectively split religious organizations into two classes: those who were protected under a narrow religious exemption – primarily dioceses and houses of worship – and those faith-based health care entities, charitable agencies, religious schools, and other faith-based entities which did not fit into this narrow definition established by the government.
With respect to this second category, HHS’s final rules “required these non exempt religious organizations to violate their consciences and cooperate,” Zwilling wrote “by ‘self certifying’ their religious objections thereby triggering their third party plan administrators to provide” the coverage to which they object. “In ruling that this self certification and so-called ‘accommodation’ procedure violates federal law, the decision makes clear that these non exempt entities would suffer ‘injury’ because ‘the Mandate renders them complicit in a scheme aimed at providing coverage to which they have a religious objection.’”
According to the ACLU, “88 cases have been filed challenging the rule as an infringement on religious liberty,” the New York Times reported. “Seventy-five of these cases are pending: 29 cases brought by nonprofit organizations, 43 cases brought by for-profit companies and three cases brought by both nonprofit and for-profit plaintiffs.”