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Obama Catholic Contraception Fight Isn’t Over As Church Sues

U.S. News and World Report
Posted on: Monday, May 21st, 2012

Monday the Catholic Church filed 12 different federal lawsuits against the administration on behalf of 43 Catholic dioceses and organizations ranging from local Catholic Charities to parish schools, hospitals, and colleges. The lawsuits are in response to last year’s ruling by the Department of Health and Human Services, known as the HHS, which mandates all healthcare plans must provide sterilizations and abortion-inducing contraceptives for free, with an exemption for churches only, not broader religious organizations. Only churches which serve solely the members of the same faith are exempt; religious organizations which serve the general public are not covered—the most narrowly defined “conscience clause” ever adopted under federal law.

Here in Washington, Cardinal Wuerl published an open letter making the case for the lawsuits and urging Catholics to join him at a rally next month within blocks of the White House at George Washington University. Clearly the Church is not backing down:

“The lawsuit in no way challenges either women’s established legal right to obtain and use contraception or the right of employers to provide coverage for it if they so choose. This lawsuit is about religious freedom. It is understandable to feel somewhat disheartened to see our government attempt to force the church out of the public square. To be clear, that is the message that the HHS mandate conveys: our beliefs are not welcome. Those who have the temerity to hold onto their convictions will be fined.”

This issue is not going away. Expect the letter from the cardinal to be read at masses this weekend, and similar letters to be read in the 43 other dioceses who are party to the lawsuits. I’m Catholic, and I’ve already gotten a mass email on the lawsuits from the head of the local Catholic Charities here; I’m sure there will be many more. The law firm of Jones Day is coordinating the litigation nationally, and the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. has set up a website to explain that this is about more than contraception: It’s about the freedom to practice religion and serve the public without government intrusion. The chancellor of the Washington archdiocese, Jane Belford, argues that under this administration’s policy, the work of Mother Teresa would no longer qualify as the work of a religious organization. That’s a great argument.

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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