September 11, 2014, at 12:10 PM | By CNS Staff |
The Obama administration’s court filing this week, indicating that it will continue its fight for enforcement of its “HHS mandate” against religious nonprofits, could immediately affect more than 400 Catholic organizations participating in the Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust, including The Cardinal Newman Society.
It may also spur along a case that is a strong candidate for Supreme Court review, thereby determining the fate of religious apostolates throughout the country.
On Monday, the Obama administration filed a brief at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, indicating that it would fight the Trust’s appeal against enforcement of the HHS mandate. Currently the Trust and its hundreds of participants are protected by a Supreme Court injunction issued in January.
“It is crucial that these appeals be resolved now,” the Administration’s attorneys told the Court, referring broadly to nonprofit lawsuits that have resulted in 31 injunctions currently preventing enforcement of the mandate. “Because of the injunctions issued in these cases, the women employed by plaintiffs have been and continue to be denied access to contraceptive coverage.”
The Trust’s case has largely been reported by both Catholic and secular media as focused on the Little Sisters of the Poor, one of the Trust’s clients and a lead plaintiff in the lawsuit. But that ignores the case’s much larger impact on hundreds of Catholic organizations. An adverse ruling could do extensive damage to the Church’s most faithful Catholic apostolates that have sought a shelter from state and federal violations of religious freedom.
The Trust provides health benefits to Catholic Church-related organizations that seek to uphold their Catholic beliefs, with no coverage for abortion-causing drugs, sterilization and contraception—as the HHS mandate would require.
According to the latest “accommodation” announced by the Obama administration last month—the eighth attempt to appease religious nonprofits while denying them full exemption from the HHS mandate—non-exempt religious organizations can submit a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that simply states religious objections to the mandated coverage. However, by submitting the letter and providing required information about the organization’s insurance provider—so that HHS can enforce the mandate for the nonprofit’s employees—the organization is coerced into a mechanism that triggers immoral insurance coverage despite deeply held religious objections.
Meanwhile, “houses of worship” are allowed full exemption from the mandate, as are many special interests for reasons that are less essential than the First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom.
The Cardinal Newman Society, defended by the Christian Brothers lawsuit, issued a statement strongly opposing the new accommodation and urging a Supreme Court resolution that protects the rights of Catholic educators and the Newman Society:
The Obama administration’s latest attempt to force morally objectionable employee benefits upon America’s religious organizations—including the most faithful Catholic schools and colleges—in no way diminishes The Cardinal Newman Society’s strenuous opposition to this extreme violation of religious freedom. We continue to depend on the courts to protect this freedom that is fundamental to all freedoms and cannot be justly violated by any government, no matter how zealous in its pursuit of other goals.
… The new interim final rule attempts to appease religious educators and organizations—and the new proposed rule attempts the same for closely held private companies protected by the Hobby Lobby ruling—on procedural matters while failing to address the most important objection: that the Obama administration continues to refuse exemption from the HHS Mandate to individual Americans, organizations and businesses for whom compliance with the HHS Mandate offends deeply held religious beliefs and moral principles.
Adele Keim, counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, reportedly said of the accommodation, “Merely offering the Little Sisters a different way to violate their religion does not ease their conscience.”
“Adding another layer of paperwork is a solution that only a bureaucrat could love,” she reportedly said.
Southern Nazarene University, a religious higher education institution in Oklahoma, was also targeted in the Administration’s court brief this week.
Source Cardinal Newman Society