Lawsuits challenging HHS mandate keep piling up

An overview, from the Washington newspaper The Hill: 

Challenges to President Obama’s birth-control mandate are piling up in court.

Twenty-four lawsuits have been filed against the federal birth-control mandate so far, mostly from religious groups that view the policy as a dangerous erosion of religious freedom.

Foes of the mandate got a boost after Illinois-based Wheaton College — a prominent Protestant school — filed its own suit on Wednesday, joining mostly Catholic-affiliated institutions in arguing the mandate tramples on religious liberty.

“The government’s mandate unconstitutionally coerces Wheaton to violate its deeply held religious beliefs under threat of heavy fines and penalties,” the complaint stated.

The onslaught of lawsuits was spurred by a White House policy that seeks to expand access to birth control by requiring that most employers cover it in their health insurance plans without a co-pay.

The policy exempts churches and houses of worship, but not religiously affiliated institutions such as hospitals and universities.

The president announced an “accommodation” after a backlash to the policy that allows employees of religiously affiliated institutions to receive birth control directly from the insurance company.

But Catholic leaders say the new mandate still erodes religious freedom and want it rescinded.

Ashley McGuire with the Catholic Association, a group that promotes activism against the mandate, said Catholics see the policy as “bullying” their faith.

“People in the pews may not agree with all of the Vatican’s teachings,” she said. “But they love their priests and they love their bishops. They see the mandate as a violation of the church’s authority to act according to its conscience.”

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