May 25, 2012
A Dozen Federal Lawsuits Challenge Health Care Mandate
In a sweeping defense of religious freedom, 43 Catholic entities — including the University of Notre Dame — filed 12 federal lawsuits on Monday challenging a government mandate that they cover contraceptives and possible abortion-causing drugs in their health plans.
"It is a compelling display of the unity of the Church in defense of religious liberty," said Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in a statement.
The Catholic Church joins other religious groups and businesses in opposing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate that all employers provide coverage for contraceptives, sterilization and abortion-causing drugs. They contend the mandate violates the First Amendment.
The USCCB is not involved in the lawsuits. But many other well-known Catholic organizations are plantiffs in the federal suits filed in eight states — Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas — plus Washington, D.C.
Those filing the suits include Notre Dame and the Catholic University of America; archdioceses in D.C., New York and St. Louis; as well as Catholic health-care providers; elementary and high schools; and charities.
Notre Dame gave President Obama an honorary degree when he delivered the 2009 commencement address. The irony of the Indiana school now challenging him in court was not lost on family advocates.
"It shows the erosion not only of religious liberty, but of goodwill," said Curt Smith, president of the Indiana Family Institute. "Notre Dame extended an olive branch to a president that they had disagreements with … it shows how surprised some are to go from 'Let's have a dialogue' to receiving a legal fiat to cover contraception. President Obama has shown no respect for differences."
Anna Franzonello, legal counsel for Americans United for Life, graduated from two of the universities that filed suits.
"There are not going to be plans that pro-life Americans can be on, "she said, "that don't violate their conscience."
Contact: Steve Fountain