FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) Files Lawsuit Against The Unconstitutional HHS Mandate

This just in from the Alliance Defending Freedom,

DENVER — Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against the Obama administration on behalf of the Colorado-based Fellowship of Catholic University Students. The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the administration’s mandate that religious employers provide insurance coverage for abortifacients, sterilization, and contraception to employees regardless of religious or moral objections.

“Faith-based organizations should be free to live and operate according to the faith they teach and live,” said Senior Counsel Mike Norton. “If the government can fine Christian ministries out of existence because they want to uphold their faith, there is no limit to what other freedoms it can take away.”

Fellowship of Catholic University Students is a non-profit Catholic organization founded in 1998 as an outreach to bring Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church to students at colleges and universities in North America and around the world. The organization’s sincere religious beliefs forbid it from facilitating the provision of abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, or sterilization through health insurance coverage it offers to its employees.

FOCUS President, CEO, and Founder Curtis A. Martin, joined by Chief Operating Officer Craig Miller, Senior Director of Finance Brenda Cannella, and Missionary Team Director Cindy O’Boyle, are practicing Catholics who filed the suit on behalf of FOCUS’ 400 employees. Martin and FOCUS staff members voluntarily take an Oath of Fidelity to be faithful to Catholic teaching and promise “to always preserve communion with the Catholic Church.” They and their families object to Obamacare’s violation of religious freedom.

“All Americans should be free to live according to their faith and to honor God in what they do,” added Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot. “Religious freedom is our God-given birthright, and this lawsuit joins more than 80 others to take a stand for that freedom, which the Constitution protects. The administration can’t sell that off for the price of an abortion pill.”

Read more.

On their website, John Zimmer, FOCUS Vice President of Training and Formation shares the reason why the missionary group is filing this lawsuit.

“With a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor” (U.S. Declaration of Independence, 1776).

As a Catholic organization, FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) seeks to provide just and affordable healthcare for its employees, while harmonizing the healthcare provisions of the Affordable Care Act with Catholic principles. However, the HHS contraceptive mandate has rendered such a service impossible.

Under the demands of the HHS contraceptive mandate, our organization would be forced to violate our most sincere religious convictions and to participate in actions that, we believe, are gravely immoral. If we resist these demands, we face exorbitant fines that would severely cripple, if not destroy, our organization and its missionary activities.

Therefore, FOCUS has no choice but to take legal action in hopes that our First Amendment rights, including our right to the free exercise of religion, will be upheld.

On December 3, 2013, the feast of Saint Francis Xavier—patron saint of FOCUS missionaries, FOCUS will file a lawsuit against United States government officials, including Kathleen Sebelius and the Department of Health and Human Services. We are deeply grateful to the attorneys of the Alliance Defending Freedom, from whom FOCUS has received pro bono legal representation, for their efforts in protecting our religious liberties.

What Does the HHS Contraceptive Mandate Require?

The HHS Contraceptive Mandate requires many, but not all, employers to provide insurance coverage at no cost for:

contraceptives
abortifacient devices
sterilization
related education and counseling

Large numbers of employers are exempted from the HHS Contraceptive Mandate, including an exemption for churches. However, there is no exemption for religious, non-profit organizations like FOCUS.

The Catholic Conscience:

Guided by 2,000 years of consistent Catholic teaching, we firmly uphold and promote the Church’s precept that the use of contraception, in any form, strips conjugal love of its life-giving nature and leaves both women and men susceptible to objectification, so that the marriage partner is reduced to a means of pleasure. Our religious beliefs guide us to promote the health and dignity of every individual; to be required to provide our employees with contraceptives would act in direct contrast to both.

Neither FOCUS nor its employees want to be forced to participate in providing immoral health insurance coverage to our families.

It is crucial to note, however, that through this lawsuit, we are NOT attempting to prevent anyone from choosing to use contraceptives. In the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, “The Church does not impose but freely proposes the Catholic faith, well aware that conversion is the mysterious fruit of the action of the Holy Spirit.” We revere each individual’s right to form and follow his or her own conscience, but we demand that the United States government allow us the freedom to follow ours.

Our Plea:

We did not ask for this fight. Indeed, Church leaders have done all in their power to avoid it. But this mandate has left us no choice. We call upon you for your prayers. We ask you to intercede for our apostolate and for the cause of religious liberty for a nation that was founded upon these important principles. We fight not just for ourselves, but for the hundreds and thousands of other organizations that are opposed to this mandate but do not have the resources or capacity to stand up for religious freedom.

“Since January 20 [2012], when the final, restrictive HHS [Mandate] . . . was first announced, we have become certain of two things: religious freedom is under attack, and we will not cease our struggle to protect it. …We have made it clear in no uncertain terms to the government that we are not at peace with its invasive attempt to curtail the religious freedom we cherish as Catholics and Americans.” –Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York

Ours is a faith that stands upon an endless line of saints and martyrs, many of whom were taxed, tortured, and killed under governments and regimes that denied them freedom of religion. Among these martyrs are Thomas More, Edmund Campion, Charles Lwanga, Paul Miki, Miguel Pro, Jerzy Popiełuszko, Cecilia of Rome, Catherine of Alexandria, and Perpetua and Felicity of Carthage, to name only a few. Through their prayers and yours, we hope that our constitutional rights will be restored, and that the U.S. Department of Justice will uphold and be true to its name.

Amen. St. Francis Xavier, pray for us.


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