Catholic groups sue over federal contraception mandate
The American Catholic bishops voiced support for the lawsuits filed Monday.
May 21st, 2012
01:03 PM ET

Catholic groups sue over federal contraception mandate

By Alan Duke, CNN

(CNN) - The University of Notre Dame and "a diverse group of plaintiffs" filed lawsuits Monday challenging the federal mandate that religious employers offer health insurance that includes coverage of contraceptives and birth control services, Notre Dame spokeswoman Shannon Chapla said.

The Notre Dame suit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Northern Indiana, is one of a dozen filed Monday by 43 separate Catholic institutions in different federal courts around the United States, Chapla said.

The lawsuits are efforts to "vindicate the country's constitutional and traditional commitments to religious freedom and pluralism," Notre Dame law professor Richard W. Garnett said in a university statement.

The Catholic Church teaches that use of contraception is morally wrong.

A White House spokesman declined to comment on the lawsuits Monday.

The Obama administration, in an attempt at a compromise, revised the rule to require health insurance companies - not employers - to provide contraception coverage, mollifying some Catholic critics. Other Catholic groups, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, are not satisfied by the revised rule.

The suits contend that the regulations violate of the First Amendment guarantee of religious liberty, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and other federal laws.

"This filing is about the freedom of a religious organization to live its mission, and its significance goes well beyond any debate about contraceptives," Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins said in a message to his school. "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 leads to the undermining of those institutions."

The Archdiocese of Washington joined in a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Monday. The plaintiffs also include Archbishop Carroll High School; Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington; the Consortium of Catholic Academies of the Archdiocese of Washington; and The Catholic University of America.

"There is no way out of the dilemma the mandate forces upon us," Washington Archdiocese Chancellor Jane Belford said. "Catholic schools, universities, hospitals and social service ministries employ and serve millions of people in this country and do so without regard to their religious beliefs. Under the government's new rules, religious organizations will face an impossible choice."

–CNN's Tom Cohen contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Health care • Politics

soundoff (556 Responses)
  1. Snow

    a bunch of dress wearing men who "claim" to have no intimate experience in all things concerning women are miffed about what women should and should not do with their own bodies.. Ah, that makes so much sense!

    wait, are they jealous that women get to wear better dresses then they do?

    May 21, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • JB12

      This has nothing to do with Catholics trying to tell women what to do or how to control their bodies. It is about the US government forcing a religious organization to do something that is against that religious organization's beliefs, thus eliminating the First Amendment rights of Freedom of Religion.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  2. Robert Hagedorn

    Google First Scandal.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
  3. Br. Michael

    The theory is that the Church should not be forced to "pay for" a practice it deems immoral.

    That theory is specious: If an employee of the church cannot obtain contraception coverage through his health insurance plan, he or she will have to pay for it out of his or her salary, which the church also provides. In that sense, the church will still be "paying for" contraception. Providing healthcare is part of the compensation package an employee receives and not a gift from an employer.

    What is at stake, therefore, is not what the church is being forced to do, but what its employees are likely to do in the absence of coverage: Because they must also use their salaries to pay for food and shelter, some of them will be discouraged by the lack of coverage from using contraception at all.

    No one has the right to force a believing Catholic to use a diaphragm, take contraceptive pills or to have an abortion. But no Catholic–even a Cardinal–has a right to make decisions about those actions for someone else, merely because that someone else is an employee or potential employee.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • J.W

      "If an employee of the church cannot obtain contraception coverage through his health insurance plan, he or she will have to pay for it out of his or her salary, which the church also provides. In that sense, the church will still be "paying for" contraception."
      That is a very good point. I actually never thought about that.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • John Carroll

      Br. Michael... the difference is a Catholic idea called Immediate Material Cooperation with Evil. Here is a link that explains it http://www.ascensionhealth.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=82:principles-of-formal-and-material-cooperation&Itemid=171

      May 21, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
    • ajk68

      "he or she will have to pay for it out of his or her salary"

      There is a flaw in the argument "Br. Michael" proposes. He takes it as an assumption that people must use contraception.

      Analogously, one could argue that employers should provide their employees with weapons (or insurance to buy weapons) because the employees will have to buy them with their salary otherwise. It's non-sense. Nobody has to buy weapons, and nobody has to buy contraception. Involving employers in this is ludicrous.

      And yes, what John Carroll says about cooperation in evil should be borne in mind.

      May 22, 2012 at 3:37 am |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      The church doesn't even have to pay for it so there is no debate anyway.

      May 22, 2012 at 10:53 am |
  4. mcskadittle

    why when we are supposed to have separation between church and state do we let them do their business tax free? It is time to stop supporting churches and make them pay taxes

    May 21, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
  5. mcskadittle

    the catholic church is against contraceptives because they are under they are still living under old assumptions that the more kids you have the more money goes in the collection plate. Its all about money

    May 21, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • Lizzie

      So all the ones who have a lot of kids are Catholics, you're an idiot, look at who has a lot of kids and sometimes from more then one man, one reason only to get GOVERNMENT handout.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • J.W

      Yeah and if they hadn't given all those government handout they would have had more money to spend on education, which could have helped Lizzie to learn better English.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • ajk68

      You know nothing about Catholicism. There is very little encouragement at the parish level for Catholics to have large families.
      You will rarely hear a homily about it; if you do, it is most likely in the doctrinally orthodox parishes.

      Large families have less money to give to the Church. I know because I have a large family. There are more expenses. So that is not the reason why the Church has traditionally encouraged large families.

      May 22, 2012 at 3:58 am |
  6. mcskadittle

    all most all coverage's includes contraceptives, but unless you fill that prescription, where is the cost?

    May 21, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  7. John Carroll

    "Other Catholic groups, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, are not satisfied by the revised rule." This line in the article displays ingorance of Catholicism. It also displays bias, especially in conjunction with the photo in the article. Catholic Bishops are from every nation of the planet Earth. You have chosen a photo of all white men for a reason.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • J.W

      Because it is not an issue that affects the entire world. The mandate only applies to Americans.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • John Carroll

      JW. The previous head of the USCCB was an African American. He didn't make it onto the picture.

      May 22, 2012 at 12:12 am |
  8. Jerubbaal

    The catholic church is so concerned about contraception but yet their officials violate every one of their deadly sins, gluttony, greed, lust, envy, fornication etc. Take the plank out of your own eye before removing the speck out of your brothers.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • Lizzie

      So if a baptist preacher kills his wife or put her in a coma, abuses kids all baptists are bad, or is it just Catholics.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest


      It's not like the corruption of Catholic clergy is a rare thing, it's far reaching and they have no accountability.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • ajk68

      @HawaiiGuest: Actually, corrupt clergy are rare. The molestations by priests occur at about the same rate (actually a little less) as school teachers and other occupations that deal with youth.

      I don't think you have any other basis for your claim that the clergy are corrupt. Almost all of them are decent people who are trying to help other people be as good as possible. There are very few thieves, murderers, adulterers, scam artists, money launderers, drug pushers, gangsters, arsonists, spies, etc. And none of them are elected politicians!

      Part of the problem is that you hear every little scandal in the media. "Father so and so was arrested on a DUI." Wow! One priest is arrested on some random day and it makes the news – what about the hundreds of other DUI's every day in the US?
      Remember, priests are ordinary men with a specific calling. They are not necessarily holier than you or I. They should be setting a good example, but so should we all !

      May 22, 2012 at 4:13 am |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      The point is that when teachers commit the acts, it gets dealt with. The teachers are removed from duty, not just shipped off to another school and have the incident be covered up. This goes all the way up the hierarchy. They knew about the dangers, they knew about the molestations. They knew, and they did nothing to stop it or deal with it. In fact they aided it by covering it up and paying off victims to keep quiet. If you don't see something wrong with that... then there is no hope for you.

      May 22, 2012 at 10:57 am |
  9. Derek Zane Cooksey

    Before we start going after birth control lets go after rapist and molester in your so call christen church there buddy. They never care this much before, gee I wonder why? “Maybe because; I going out on a limb here, "he’s black", don’t take the common out of common sense”. If the girl or woman dosen't want to take the pill they dont have to take it, so what part of freedom is this? Rieligous my ass, Religon is about loving your fellow man/woman and showing compassion for one another. Get a clue and anyone saying any differant is seeling something and I'm not buying it. Dont get me wrong I have Faith and my faith tells me to not be mean or cruel to other human beings. Hate the sin but love the sinner.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • John Carroll

      I agree that we should hate the sin and love the sinner. Unfortunately the HHS mandate is forcing the church to all become sinners according to Cathlic teaching. They have no choice in the matter. Your assertion that Catholics oppose the HHS mandate because "he is black," is not well founded and is inancurate. In fact, I would point out that Agustus Toltan, the first African-American Priest who was a freed slave has an open cause for canonization. That means, he may be found to be a Saint in the Catholic Church..

      May 22, 2012 at 1:46 am |
  10. anoel2005

    no matter what your beliefs are , the Govt. should not be able to mandate that any religion do something ( offer coverage for abortion/contraception) which goes against the tenets of their faith.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      They are not mandating that anyone use birth control or abortion. They are saying that they have to provide the oportunity for everyone.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • Observer

      if any of these organizations is receiving government money – medicare, medicaid, pell grants, other government assistance paid for with my tax dollars – they don't have an exclusive on religion. My freedom of religion is being attacked because I am taxed and the money is going, in part, to this catholic organization. similarly, they should have their tax exempt status revoked – as they are acting like any other corporation. if they want to remain tax exempt, they should not take federal money, and only employ catholic individuals.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • John Carroll

      In this instance, the governments strong belief in the need for a eugenic program that reaches target populations is more important that the religous freedom of Catholics. Check out http://www.blackgenocide.org

      May 22, 2012 at 1:52 am |
  11. Portland tony

    Da Pope sure has his minions hopping around on this issue. Like any CEO he says, " Well boys, it's my way or the highway". Right Bishop?

    May 21, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • Lizzie

      Wrong that's President Obamas and the democrats motto.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
  12. Steve

    God says make children and he did not say stop. We are to make children until there is no place to stand, until all new babies die from hunger, until all that there is on land are humans. Thus spoke Catholics.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • ajk68

      Get out of the 70's. That hunger thing has gotten real old.

      Despite the dire predictions of the global starvation birth control crowd, the earth's food supply has outpaced the population growth. This has been done with more efficient farming. These technological solutions were provided by – PEOPLE !

      Starvation is a political problem these days, not a resource problem.

      May 22, 2012 at 4:17 am |
  13. justinstl

    Th catholic church is a CULT if there ever was one!

    May 21, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • PrimeNumber

      That "cult" built Western Civilization.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • BigMV

      You mean destroyed the Western hemisphere. They couldn't just keep Catholicism in Europe. They had to spread like a virus.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
  14. justinstl

    How many of these Catholic businesses and catholic hospitals have employees and patients that are unwed mothers....Next they will fire single parents or pregnant single women and stop delivering babies in the hospitals for single people....They want to pick and choose....I think they should choose to keep thier moral opinions in their church on Sunday!

    May 21, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • SPA Knight

      Your opinion isn't really what matters on this subject. Employees that work for these organizations presently have agreed to the terms and conditions of their employment. These catholic organizations are not taking anything away from their employees but making sure that they are not forced by the government to provide benefits that are contrary to their core beliefs. Why is that a prolem for those of you who oppose?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • Observer

      to spa knight. if these ogranizations are taking federla money in any form that I paid for with my taxes – they have no right to be tax exempt OR to dictate their religion on their employees.
      chances are they had no idea that birth control was paid for previously but now that it has their attention they are all over it. maybe they should start by denouncing molesting children.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • ajk68

      justinstl: That's precisely the issue. You want to confine religion to "worship" inside a church/temple building. Religious freedom is the right to bring one's religious principles into the public forum and act upon them.

      Religious freedom is what stands between us and a religious dictatorship: atheist, Catholic, protestant, muslim, buddhist, whatever!

      May 22, 2012 at 4:20 am |
  15. Primewonk

    " The Obama administration, in an attempt at a compromise, revised the rule to require health insurance companies – not employers – to provide contraception coverage, mollifying some Catholic critics. Other Catholic groups, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, are not satisfied by the revised rule."

    So these Catholic Cretins now want to dictate what private companies can and cannot do?

    May 21, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • paulronco

      What's wrong with telling private companies what they can and cannot do?

      May 21, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • Jon Haines

      It's really not complicated. Companies (mostly Catholic ones) don't want to be forced to buy products which they consider to be used only for wrong doing. If you force them to buy them you could also force the Amish to use electricity, Jews to eat pork and secular humanists to fund weekly Masses.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • ajk68

      Primewonk: this was just the Obama administration passing the buck farther down the chain. Catholics aren't stupid. Obama's "compromise" has the veneer of compromise and attempts to make him look reasonable. The reality was that he gave a big middle finger to the Catholic Church.

      May 22, 2012 at 4:23 am |
    • No Truth, Just Claims


      And if you don't Jahovahs Witness Churches can refuse insurance that covers blood transfusions.....it works both ways.

      May 22, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • No Truth, Just Claims

      "The reality was that he gave a big middle finger to the Catholic Church."

      Good, that should happen more often, and to a larger scope.

      May 22, 2012 at 10:37 am |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      Jon they don't have to buy the contraception. The insurance companies are covering the entire cost. Where is the issue?

      May 22, 2012 at 11:04 am |
  16. Carolyn

    I have been a practicing Catholic all my life. I think that the Bishops are just wrong on birth control payment. The Bishops want to impose their values on their secular professors, health care workers, etc. If that is the case, they should get out of the health care business and take their universities to a more provincial and less academic setting where all faculty and staff are Catholic

    May 21, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • Gundwolf

      Carolyn, as a Catholic, I completely agree with you. The bishops are arguing in defense of Catholic doctrine but violating, themselves, the First Amendment guarantee of religious liberty of each member of the Church. That they base their argument on a principle of democracy established for our pluralistic socieity, made up of both believers and nonbelievers, is hypocritical. They are demeaning the doctrines of the Church, in reality. Frankly, I do not believe the bishops trust us Catholics to make decisions based on our own conscience. I feel stripped of my free will by their current actions. How can they be so dense?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • rtcdmc

      Franciscan University of Steubenville Ohio heard your request, and is dropping medical coverage for its students. Be careful what you wish for.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • rtcdmc

      To gundwolf, I am not aware of ANY doctrine in the history of the Catholic Church that allows infanticide - in any form. What doctrine are the Bishops supposedly demeaning?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • John Carroll

      Carlyn... The Bishops and Notre Dame don't wish to imose their values on anyone. They simply don't want to be imposed on by the Government to pay for things that they hold as morally objectionable. Remember, we aren't talking about having an insurance plan that pays for heart transplants. the isue is whether the church should be required to pay for pills and proceedures that prevent or end a human life which is the natural consequense of certain personal behavior. In short, is this really even healthcare. the fertility of a woman's body is working fine until the pill causes it to malfunction the way we wish.

      May 22, 2012 at 12:28 am |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      Once again John, the church doesn't have to pay. The insurance companies do.

      May 22, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • John Carroll

      Jacque... I encourage you to educate yourself on this matter instead of trying to tow the line. Franciscan University of Steubenville just dropped their student health insurance, not only because they were being forced by the Affordable Care Act to contract with an insurance company who offers contraception, sterilization and abortion and then passes the cost on. The primary reason they dropped it is because the Affordable Heatch Care Act made Health Care completely unaffordable. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xT5oMXV3r9c&feature=player_detailpage

      May 22, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • John Carroll

      According to the University and many other state and secular universities, the requirements in the Affordable Health Care Act will double their cost in the next year and triple it the following year. As a result, the Affordable Health Care Act makes Health Care Unaffordable. Universities simply can't afford this kind of increase. As a result, they are dropping it. That means that students who don't come to school with insurance will be forced on the Government Provided Insurance, which is the real goal of Obamacare... socialized medicine.

      May 22, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  17. Noel

    The catholic church should focus and not molesting children and quit obstructing the right to healthcare.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • Lizzie

      You can buy health insurance on every street corner, so what is keeping you from doing so, or is it you want it FREE like everything else,

      May 21, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      Do you know how much health insurance for a family costs Lizzie if you buy it on the street corner? Clearly you don't. Most people can't afford it.

      May 22, 2012 at 11:08 am |
  18. just sayin

    So the Church of Perverts is filign suit. Got to love them,..God Bless them and the innocent children.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • No Truth, Just Claims

      Maybe you should change it with your prayers.... let us know when you get it fixed.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • Jon Haines

      Oh wonderful logic. Congratulations you get an ad hominem award for staying on topic.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • Religious Life

      I think it's pretty funny how most of you ignorants are unable to form proper sentences that make sense. Maybe your education reflects your opinion on something you know nothing about. Because of your comments, everyone's IQ has dropped a few points.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • just sayin

      Jon Haines

      Oh wonderful logic. Congratulations you get an ad hominem award for staying on topic.


      Maybe the Catholic Pervert Church will sue me for this?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • Lizzie

      So what do you believe in, probably NOTHING, all you can do is call ALL Catholics perverts, how about baptists or any other religion, there are bad apples in every religion.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
  19. VraspirJD

    Alright, well I am going to sue the federal Government because war is against my religion. Jesus... Just because you pay taxes, and by definition fund a program that helps women and men alike, does not mean that you HAVE to take part in it. I'm catholic and disagree with contraception yet still use it, not because it is right and prevents diseases, but because it is my choice. And therein lies the issue. If people are going to complain about funding longterm health solutions for women, then they also need to start complaining about funding an unpaid for war that has claimed the lives of thousands of brave men and women. Get over it, the lord is with you.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • John Carroll

      VraspirJD... if you are Catholic and believe that contraception is wrong and you still use it because it is your choice, then you probably understand that you should not be receiving communion. In short, there are consquences of not using contracetion, that is that your body remains in the natural state, your fertility is not distorted by chemicals. and eventually you may give birth. The consequence for you as a Catholic to break with the church on a fundamental issue of faith and morals is that you should not receive communion until you realize that you are wrong and the church is right.

      May 22, 2012 at 12:37 am |
  20. freelance

    one picture is worth a thousand words. Look at the picture of these guys not happy with the mandate and see what you think.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • ME II

      I'm fairly sure this is a stock photo that has been used before.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.