Important Update: Archdiocese of Washington Files Petition for Rehearing En Banc Read More.
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Archdiocese of Washington Statement on D.C. Circuit’s Denial of Rehearing in its Legal Challenge to the HHS Mandate

May 21, 2015

Washington, DC – The Archdiocese of Washington and its co-plaintiffs are disappointed that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has denied our Petition for Rehearing in our ongoing legal challenge to the HHS Mandate.

The petition, filed in late December 2014, asked the full court to reconsider the deeply flawed decision issued earlier by a three-judge panel that conflicted with judicial precedent—including last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby—in ruling that the Mandate does not violate the rights of religious objectors. As Circuit Judge Brown wrote in her strongly-worded dissent, which was joined by Circuit Judge Henderson, “Plaintiffs, including an Archbishop and two Catholic institutions of higher learning, say compliance with the regulations would facilitate access to contraception in violation of the teachings of the Catholic Church. What law or precedent grants this Court authority to conduct an independent inquiry into the correctness of this belief? Instead, where one sincerely believes performing certain acts would cause him to cross the line between permissible behavior and sin, the Supreme Court has instructed, ‘it is not for us to say that the line he drew was an unreasonable one.’Hobby Lobby, 134 S. Ct. at 2778 (quoting Thomas, 450 715).”

The archdiocese and its co-plaintiffs anticipate petitioning the Supreme Court to review the D.C. Circuit’s erroneous decision, and we remain hopeful that final disposition of this case will vindicate religious freedom and rights of conscience.

The archdiocese and its affiliates remain committed and determined to serve others freely in accordance with the Catholic faith. It is precisely because of this faith that local Catholic entities are thelargest nongovernmental provider of social services in this region.

For more information about the lawsuit brought by the archdiocese and its co-plaintiffs, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington, et al. v. Sylvia Mathews Burwell, et al., D.C. Cir. case no. 13-5371, please visit


The Archdiocese of Washington is home to over 620,000 Catholics, 139 parishes and 95 Catholic schools, located in Washington, D.C., and five Maryland counties: Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s.

CONTACT: Chieko Noguchi
[email protected]

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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