Good News On The HHS Mandate Front From The Pennsylvania Sector…

A preliminary injunction from the HHS Mandate has been granted to the Dioceses of Erie, and Pittsburgh in the Keystone State.

This out of GoErie.com,

The Catholic Diocese of Erie has won the first round in its fight against the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act.

A federal judge in Pittsburgh on Thursday granted the diocese’s request for a preliminary injunction to temporarily block the imposition of the mandate, which is to take effect nationwide on Jan. 1.

U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab also granted a preliminary injunction to the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh. He had heard the dioceses’ nearly identical petitions together.

Schwab’s 65-page ruling, which he said is precedent-setting, puts the imposition of the mandate on hold until he holds another hearing and decides whether to make the injunctions permanent.

As part of his ruling, however, Schwab found that the dioceses’ likelihood of succeeding on the merits of the case is high, and his decision keeps the status quo until he reaches another decision.

“The court concludes that it is in the public interest to have the issues presented herein considered in a thoughtful and orderly manner,” Schwab wrote.

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The crux of Schwab’s ruling focused on a defining element of the government’s accommodation — the differing levels of applicability for the mandate.

Dioceses, houses of worship, religious orders and similar organizations are exempt from the mandate. But it applies to religious colleges and universities, high schools, social-service organizations and other groups, where all the employees are less apt to share their organizations’ religious beliefs, according to the Obama administration.

The accommodation allows a diocese to sign statements of objection, which would allow employees to get coverage for contraceptive services from a third-party provider, at no cost to the religious organization or a related entity, such as the Catholic Diocese of Erie, which is self-insured.

The dioceses argued that all religious organizations that fall under the umbrella of the dioceses should be exempt, whether they are houses of worship or social-service organizations. Schwab used pointed language in sharing the dioceses’ concerns over the division.

“Why should religious employers who provide the charitable and educational services of the Catholic Church be required to facilitate/initiate the provision of contraceptive products, services and counseling … when religious employers who operate the houses of worship do not?” Schwab wrote. “To this question, the government does not provide a direct answer.”

He referred to the government’s division of houses of worship and religious organizations as “enigmatic.”

Read more.

There’s a lot to be read in the opinion, but focus on what Judge Schwab writes on pages 64 and 65 of the Court’s opinion,

Lastly, granting the preliminary injunction furthers the public interest. As noted above,the Court concludes that it is in the public interest to have the issues presented herein, considered in a thoughtful and orderly manner. These issues include whether the Government will be permitted to sever the Catholic Church into two parts (i.e., worship and faith, and “good works”) –in other words, whether the Government will be successful in restricting the Right to the Free Exercise of Religion as set forth in the First Amendment to a Right to Worship only. This reflective consideration as to nonprofit, religious affiliated/related entities, including Plaintiffs, is all the more in the public interest, because the Free Exercise of Religion is a fundamental right.

The public interest also is best served if Plaintiffs (non-profit, affiliated/related organizations) can continue to provide needed educational and social services, without the threat of substantial fines for non-compliance with the contraceptive mandate as imposed upon them via the “accommodation.” As previously noted, such fines would impede the provision of those services to thousands of individuals who have no other means of obtaining necessary food, shelter, and other basic assistance…A preliminary injunction, preserving the status quo, prevents any reduction in those services and thus is in the best interests of the public.

Read it all here. Sing me a song, John,

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  • Almario Javier

    This is good news. God willing, we may strip the ACA of all its attacks against conscience, so that we can consign it into the realm of prudential policymaking.