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Catholic Church Goes to Court: What Can We Expect?

By Gerard BradleyNational Catholic Register
Posted on: Thursday, May 31st, 2012
Original publication date: May 31, 2012

On May 21 the Catholic Church in the United States went to court.

In an unprecedented spate of lawsuits filed throughout the country, the Archdioceses of New York and Washington, along with such leading Catholic institutions as Notre Dame and Catholic Charities, joined a host of Catholic institutions seeking to have judges rule that the Obama administration’s contraception, abortion and sterilization mandate violates religious liberty.

Among those institutions already in the fray were Belmont Abbey College, Franciscan University, EWTN and at least two Catholic businessmen.

There are altogether approximately two dozen lawsuits pending. Scores of Catholic institutions are plaintiffs. All of them are represented by experienced counsel. Those which sued on May 21, for example, are all being represented pro bono by arguably the nation’s best law firm, Jones Day.

Now that the dust has settled on the filings and the initial burst of media attention has slackened, it is time to ask: What can we expect from these lawsuits? Is the Church likely to prevail? If so, upon what grounds?

The first thing to understand, however, is that it will be good news if these lawsuits go nowhere. There are three possible scenarios in which the Church’s institutions could win without achieving victory in court.

One scenario will play out no later than June 29. By that date the Supreme Court will decide whether the whole Obama health-care reform is unconstitutional. The issue in that case has nothing to do the contraception mandate; it is about requiring everyone to have health insurance by 2014. But, because HHS issued the contraception requirement under the authority of the larger reform, if that reform goes down the contraception mandate goes down with it.

The second scenario will play out on Nov. 6. If Mitt Romney is then elected our nation’s 45th president, he will soon thereafter announce that he is rescinding the mandate.

If neither the Supreme Court nor Romney moots the pending spate of lawsuits, the third possibility is that Obama might invite Church representatives to the bargaining table, to hammer out a more generous exemption for religious institutions from the mandate. The administration presently insists that the exemption is settled. But that is likely to change if things start going badly for HHS in court. How likely is that?

Very likely.

Follow this link to read more.

About Preserve Religious Freedom

This lawsuit is about religious freedom and our ability to serve the public, not about contraception. The Church maintains that the First Amendment protects the Catholic Church's ability to serve the public in accordance with its faith and to operate its religious institutions without government interference. The argument challenges the way the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) defines what is, and is not, a religious institution. By including an exemption at all, the government apparently agrees that, in keeping with decades of practice and precedent, religious institutions should not be compelled to purchase drugs or procedures that violate deeply held religious or moral beliefs.

But, the Administration's HHS mandate defines religious ministry so narrowly that religious schools, hospitals, and social services don't qualify as religious, and must therefore provide these drugs and procedures. This violates the First Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom. It forces religious organizations to sacrifice their beliefs in order to be able to continue their mission of serving the public. Read more about the plaintiffs filing this lawsuit here.

Preserve Religious Freedom
c/o Archdiocese of Washington
P.O. Box 29260
Washington, DC 20017-0260

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