Miami archdiocese sues over ‘real threat’ from HHS mandate

Miami, Fla., Oct 19, 2012 / 03:19 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archdiocese of Miami and two other Catholic entities filed a lawsuit today against the HHS mandate, adding to the dozens of lawsuits already filed in the matter.

“The HHS mandate represents a real threat … we cannot just sit back and let our religious freedoms be taken away from us,” Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami told CNA Oct. 19.

Bolstering Catholic identity and teaching what it means to be a Catholic were also on the archbishop's mind.

“I think listening to Vice President Biden's remarks at his debate when he alleged there was no problem with the Church and the administration, also underscores the urgency of the problem, that there is a problem.”

The archdiocese in the person of Archbishop Wenski, Catholic Health Services, and Catholic Hospice are the plaintiffs in the suit. It challenges the mandate as a violation of Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and of three parts of the First Amendment: its free exercise, establishment, and free speech clauses.

“If we can rescind the mandate, we will be able to maintain our freedom to serve in ways that are congruent with our Catholic identity and our Catholic principles, and therefore (the rule) will not present us with an obstacle that could in fact jeopardize our individual salvation,” Archbishop Wenski said.

Archbishop Wenski emphasized that the suit would help the Church in Miami continue providing health services and other care to the people of southern Florida.

“These health services that we offer and our Catholic charities … are a witness to what we believe about the human person, about human dignity, which is informed by our faith,” he explained.

The lawsuit was announced at a 3:00 p.m. press conference at the archdiocese's Pastoral Center on Oct. 19.

The mandate requires that virtually all employers, even religious ones, provide employees with health insurance that covers contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs, despite any moral and religious reservations of conscience they might have.

To date, more than 100 plaintiffs have filed at least 33 other lawsuits against the federal government challenging the Department of Health and Human Services mandate.

Plaintiffs include religious organizations, for-profit businesses and private individuals. Several non-Catholic employers and religious institutions have challenged the suit, including Hobby Lobby, Wheaton College, two Baptist universities and the Bible publisher Tyndale House.

The Obama administration has proposed an accommodation for religious employers, but the details are not yet clear and have not been finalized. The administration has opposed congressional efforts to provide a broad religious exemption to the controversial mandate.

Employers who do not comply with the mandate face fines of $100 per employee per day.

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