University of Notre Dame Re-Files Lawsuit Against The HHS Department

University of Notre Dame Re-Files Lawsuit Against The HHS Department December 3, 2013

A little while ago, I mentioned that all of the HHS Mandate lawsuits that the government dismissed as being premature, are now at full gestation.

Here’s an example of that fact from the University of Notre Dame website.

The University of Notre Dame on Tuesday (Dec. 3) re-filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana for relief from a mandate by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that, contrary to Catholic teaching, requires Notre Dame and similar religious organizations to provide through their insurance plans or third-party administrators contraceptives, sterilization procedures and drugs that some assert induce abortions.

“Our abiding concern in both the original filing of May 21, 2012, and this re-filing has been Notre Dame’s freedom — and indeed the freedom of many religious organizations in this country — to live out a religious mission,” Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., Notre Dame’s president, said. “We have sought neither to prevent women from having access to services, nor even to prevent the government from providing them.”

Notre Dame and government administration officials have been in conversation for more than a year to resolve the matter.

“We believe the participants undertook these discussions in good faith, and we are grateful to the administration for the time it gave to this matter and for its efforts to accommodate our concerns,” Father Jenkins said. “We have concluded, however, the government’s accommodations would require us to forfeit our rights, to facilitate and become entangled in a program inconsistent with Catholic teaching and to create the impression that the University cooperates with and condones activities incompatible with its mission. In these ways, we contend, the regulations compel us to violate our religious beliefs.”

In its filing Tuesday, the University asked, among other things, that the court enter declaratory judgments that the HHS mandate violates Notre Dame’s rights under the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and that the court enjoin the government from enforcing the mandate. The lawsuit names as defendants Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez, Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew and their respective departments.

Citing the Nov. 13 U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Special Message regarding the mandate, Father Jenkins said that “Notre Dame wholeheartedly supports, in accord with Catholic teaching and in union with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the effort to provide ‘accessible, life-affirming health care’ for everyone. It is deeply regrettable that rather than joining with the Catholic Church, which has long been a leader in providing such care, the Department of Health and Human Services through this mandate has created a conflict that has demanded time, energy and resources and distracted all parties involved from seeking ways to provide such care.”

Father Jenkins added: “As I said regarding our original filing, because at its core this filing is about the freedom of a religious organization to live its mission, its significance goes well beyond any debate about contraceptive services. For if we concede that the government can decide which religious organizations are sufficiently religious to be awarded the freedom to follow the principles that define their mission, then we have begun to walk down a path that ultimately will undermine those institutions. For if one presidential administration can override our religious purpose and use religious organizations to advance policies that undercut our values, then surely another administration will do the same for another very different set of policies, each time invoking some concept of popular will or the public good, with the result these religious organizations become mere tools for the exercise of government power, morally subservient to the state, and not free from its infringements. If that happens, it will be the end of genuinely religious organizations in all but name.”

Which is why we, as a Church, are fighting this injustice.

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