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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. O.T.

    I'm not Catholic, but I'm proud that the church is standing up against the Obama administration and for religious freedom. It's time for Americans to unite against the assault on individual freedom.

    May 21, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
    • Spencer

      But when you think about it, this doesn't make any sense. The government isn't making people use birth control. Just that they are offered it.

      May 21, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
    • ajk68

      It's making people pay for insurance to cover the pills and sterilization procedures.

      May 22, 2012 at 4:25 am |
  2. Spencer

    What? just because you are offered it doesn't mean you need to use it. THIS IS SO STUPID. Gosh. This is why I hate organized religion.

    May 21, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
    • Art

      China has it right. The one child policy. No religious tooting.

      May 21, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
    • ajk68

      Spencer: get informed. You don't seem to have a grasp of the what is being argued about.

      May 22, 2012 at 4:26 am |
  3. t3chn0ph0b3

    Are we really going to let a pointy-hatted dictator from overseas determine domestic policy?

    May 21, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
    • Wrath of Zeus

      Fvck the catholic church.

      May 21, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
    • O.T.

      More liberal religious bigotry. Notice how often you see attacks on Christians and Mormons, and Democrats never decry this bigotry.

      May 21, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • t3chn0ph0b3

      O.T.: I'm pretty sure the misogynistic platform being pushed by all those GUYS in red hats in the above picture is the real form of bigotry here.

      May 21, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • joesix

      Grover Norquist isn't from overseas.

      May 21, 2012 at 11:45 pm |
    • ajk68

      I'm not sure why you feel justified in calling them misogynist. I know many women who completely agree with Catholic doctrine. In fact, many of the principles with regard to the dignity of women originated with the Catholic Church.

      For example, you see very early on in Church history the canonization of women as saints. The religious recognition of women was unheard of. There are many examples of ways the Church has protected women from degradation – I don't have time to write a thesis.

      May 22, 2012 at 4:29 am |
  4. Luke

    How can the catholic church sue anyone when they need to be sued out of existence for harboring pedophiles.

    May 21, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
    • Gus Provak

      They're all pedophiles? The entire Vatican? They all harboured them? Wow you are so informed? You just attacked a church of God. Did you get a nice demonic buzz? Adrenalin rush? You just allowed a demon to enter your consciousness. You are possessed.

      May 21, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
    • Spencer

      Gus ur retarded. Get your head out of the popes butt and think for yourself for a change.

      May 21, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • O.T.

      Rank religious bigotry. Please love, don't hate.

      May 21, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
    • SPA Knight

      Luke – There are probably more pedophiles, molesters and rappists living in your neighborhood than there is in the church. You just don't hear about it because it's not news that perpetuates the attacks on the church.

      May 23, 2012 at 11:01 am |
  5. Gus Provak

    Finally, somebody has the conviction to stand up to this Muslim Gay Socialist.

    May 21, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
  6. Teresa

    Really CNN? I couldn't find the article. It's about Justice, that is, religious freedom. Not politics or contraception. Is any organization in the media going to get this right? Please open your minds and report facts and educate. The Catholic Church, and thankfully thinking faithful women and the USCCB (www.USCCB.org) have got it right.

    May 21, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
  7. svann

    Its fine that the church itself can be tax exempt and etc, but if they want to start a business they should follow every law that any other business has to follow.

    May 21, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
    • Hawk

      Agreed!

      May 21, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
    • Art

      I don't think the church should be tax exempt. Why should those scam artist be given special treatment.

      May 21, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
    • ajk68

      They do follow every law. Get your facts straight.

      We are not arguing about whether they need to follow the law. The argument is what that law should be (or rather, whether Obama's administration has the correct application of the law – as none of this is specified in the law itself).

      In the end, the Catholic organization will follow the law. If the law is decided that they must cover contraception, many of them will close their doors, or fire all the non-Catholics (which would be legal because being Catholic would then be a bona fide job qualification) and only serve Catholics. This would result in the loss of jobs for many non-Catholics as well as the loss of services in hospitals and universities. In the universities, it would be a big blow to diversity (which is why even the most liberal Catholic universities – e.g. Notre Dame – are opposing this).

      May 22, 2012 at 4:35 am |
  8. babs

    Keep your rosaries off my ovaries!

    May 21, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
    • But...

      But, the mandate is actually forcing the Church to do something that it views wrong. All that we Catholics want is to not have to pay for something that we think is bad for people & that we don't use. You can keep using contraceptives if you want to, but don't make us pay for it. Keep your ovaries off my rosaries!

      May 21, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • O.T.

      No one is thinking about your ovaries. They just don't want to be forced to pay for something they find objectionable.

      May 21, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
    • ajk68

      I don't want the Catholic Church to be forced to insure your ovaries. So I think we are in agreement. Drop the HHS mandate!

      May 22, 2012 at 4:37 am |
  9. Tim

    Steverino,

    You watch too many movies by Tom Hanks – and don't know what you are talking about.

    May 21, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
  10. Randall

    And the Catholic Church wonders why they are loosing members. 98% of Catholic women have at some time in their life used contraception. Just another example of the dirty old men in Rome dictating to women when they know nothing about women's health problems and could care less. They support Republicans because the GOP is against abortion, but they ignor the fact that the GOP is totally against the social safety net poor. Yet the Catholic Church claims to minister to the poor.

    May 21, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
    • buck cameron

      A bunch of old men in pink hats and dresses telling women what to do with their bodies. Yuk.

      May 21, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
    • Actually...

      Most priests are Democrats.

      May 21, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
    • Gus Provak

      Jesus, shut up, you sound like a 14 year old arguing with his parents. God's word is true. There is a spirit world. It's beyond our understanding but people experience it every day. The way to everlasting salvation has been shown to most of the world. If you wish to die and lose your soul to an everlasting existence in darkness, away from the light of God, then that's your choice....but how about keeping it to yourself and stop hurting others with your generalities.

      May 21, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
    • ajk68

      Yes. Most priests are democrats.

      May 22, 2012 at 4:39 am |
  11. John F. Kirwan

    Jack!
    A substantial precentage of women need to take brith control of one kind or another for serious medical problems. Not to limite the size of their family. Does the church plan on asking for the doctor's notes to determine their motivation.

    May 21, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
    • ajk68

      The Church does not oppose medicines needed for legitimate reasons.
      It is a simple matter to code for contraceptives versus other uses. This system is already in place.

      The Church is not administering the insurance policies either (which you seem to have gotten wrong). So no, they don't need a note because they are not involved in disbursing payments.
      The Church would be paying for the insurance.

      May 22, 2012 at 4:47 am |
  12. Wiley Thruster

    The issue: The Imperial Federal Government is trying to force the Catholic Church to aid and abet in the commission of an act that, as one of it's tenets, the Church teaches as immoral and sinful. It's like forcing AA to serve alcohol at it's meetings.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
    • Steverino

      You're a liar.

      May 21, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
    • Gus Provak

      Thank you for telling THE TRUTH.

      May 21, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
    • Randall

      What about other Faiths that for religious reasons don't believe in blood transfusions, for the members or their children. Will this group be exempt, or do they need to be a larger denomination to receive attention.

      May 21, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
    • ajk68

      If they don't want to insure blood transfusions for religious reasons, they shouldn't be forced to.

      May 22, 2012 at 4:48 am |
  13. Marnie

    "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." This is misleading reporting. Only bishops have the authority to represent the position of the Roman Catholic Church. Any "Catholic critic" who was "mollified" by the shell game tactic of having the direct onus put on insurers is not a voice for the Catholic Church. As the health plan sponsor, the Church is still being forced to assist in what it believes to be sinful behavior. Obama is betting that bigotry against Catholic teaching is strong enough in this country that he can get away with this.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • Wiley Thruster

      So they set up a "straw man" to shield the Church from a decision that goes against it's teachings? How considerate of them. What people like you don't understand is principles are not things one finagle's around to satisfy others.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
    • ajk68

      I think you guys are on the same side...

      May 22, 2012 at 4:50 am |
  14. Wholly Mary

    A big flock of (technically) unmarried, celibute men in dresses telling married couples not to use any artifical birth control. What a blessing for the overpopulated, starving people of the world.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • Randall

      But there is good news they can sell to their GOP buddies, their anti abortion policies creates lots of cheap labor. Children of poor unwed teenage mothers are usually doomed to poverty or jail.

      May 21, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
    • ajk68

      The 70's are over. We've heard this starvation stuff for too long.

      The reality is that the food supply is increasing faster than the population. The problem of hunger is a political one.

      And the problem of food production was solved by PEOPLE ! That's the great thing about them, they contribute more than they consume.

      May 22, 2012 at 4:52 am |
  15. Reality

    ONLY FOR THE NEW MEMBERS

    Some nitty-gritty:

    "Twenty-one states offer exemptions from contraceptive coverage, usually for religious reasons, for insurers or employers in their policies: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan (administrative rule), Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas and West Virginia."

    http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/health/insurance-coverage-for-contraception-state-laws.aspx

    Next:

    The Catholic hierachy do not believe in artificial birth control so why do they employ those who do? Did not the Supreme Court recently decide that religious organizations have the right to decide who they hire and fire? Bottom line: To reduce health insurance costs and to not be subject to Obama care regulations about supplying contraceptives, Catholic groups should simply not hire those who want contraceptives and fire those who demand such coverage.

    Next:

    Condoms are available over the counter. Make the Pill (type dependent on prior doctor's evaluation as to hormone level, etc.) available over the counter and there will be no more debate. Planned Parenthood can offer deep discounts for those who say they cannot afford said protection.

    Or better yet, put a pack of condoms in cereal boxes.(and maybe Pills?) Unfortunately, that would not ensure the condoms and/or Pills would be used. Based on Guttmacher Insti-tute data, said condoms and/or Pills are currently not being used as they should. (one million abortions/yr and 19 million cases of S-TDs/yr because either the daily Pill was not taken or a condom stayed in the pocket.)

    Condom-fitted briefs for men?? Hmmm? 🙂 🙂

    The door is open for other ideas!!!

    May 21, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
  16. Tim

    How ignorant – the fact that horrid men abused their power and did unspeakable things to children – and it was handled wrongly DOES NOT mean the Catholic Church condones this treatment of children! Also, a lot of Catholic men and women steal and commit adultery – even though the Church also forbids those things – that doesn't mean they SHOULD be doing them if they want to abide by what the Church teaches. No one is forcing anyone to be a Catholic or abide by what the Church teaches – that doesn't mean that the Church should have to change what it teaches just because people disagree with it.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
  17. Mistakes and lazy coverage

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

    No, the Catholic Church teaches that ARTIFICIAL contraception (as well as STERILIZATION, and ABORTIFACIENTS, which are ALSO REQUIRED to be covered under the mandate) are morally wrong and that Catholics should not be involved in them.

    This article lacks many other important details of the story. – A quick Bing/Google search returns way better versions of this story.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • ajk68

      Actually, the Catholic Church teaches contraception is wrong: artificial or otherwise.
      It is unfortunate that Humanae Vitae used the term "artificial contraception" as people have subsequently misunderstood the term – thinking the immorality has something to do with the artificiality. The immorality rests in the violation of the end of the act. Blessed Pope John Paul II argued that this also vitiated the procreative and unitive aspects of the act.

      Natural Family Planning forgoes (does without) the act in times of fertility. It does not render procreation impossible for a given act. It merely relies on the body's natural function at certain times without impeding that function at other times. (Those who argue Catholics are against science should look at some of the work out of Marquette with regard to fertility).

      May 22, 2012 at 5:02 am |
  18. Iamnotfooled

    The church forbids it --Yet most Catholic women have admitted using it. Go figure.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • Tim

      A lot of Catholic men and women steal and commit adultery – even though the Church also forbids those things – that doesn't mean they SHOULD be doing them if they want to abide by what the Church teaches. No one is forcing anyone to be a Catholic or abide by what the Church teaches – that doesn't mean that the Church should have to change what it teaches just because people disagree with it.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • ajk68

      The problem is that there are (and have been) a lot of liberal theologians running around telling people it's o.k. to use contraception.
      Unfortunately, most of the parish priests have bought into this hokum.

      May 22, 2012 at 5:08 am |
  19. Matt

    The Catholic church's mission would never be considered a success if the mission is forced upon people. Their mission would only be considered a success if they offered contraception and none of their followers used it. They are taking the wrong approach.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • firebrand

      That makes no sense. People are "offered" contraception already (all you need to do is go to the store, or a university health center). The Church doesn't need to offer it. The issue here is that the Church should not be forced to offer something that it has consistently taught to be seriously morally wrong.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
  20. just sayin

    Lets see...Catholic Church is pro child r ap e but will sue over insurance matters...got ti.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • kirby

      LOL........aren't they funny.!

      May 21, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • Tim

      How ignorant – the fact that horrid men abused their power and did unspeakable things to children – and it was handled wrongly DOES NOT mean the Catholic Church condones this treatment of children!

      May 21, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • Steverino

      Tim, don't bother trying to cover it up. The fact remains that the RCC has deliberately covered up and protected pedo-priests.

      They issue orders that not only provide protection for these pedo-priests, but deliberately HARASS and TERRORIZE the CHILDREN who were ABUSED.

      So don't come here and try your bs on us. We know your Catholic Church of Slime is one of the most disgusting and evil criminal organizations on the Earth!

      May 21, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • Tim

      Steverino,

      You watch too many movies by Tom Hanks – and don't know what you are talking about.

      May 21, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
    • Gus Provak

      Steverino, I'm sorry your parents don't love you. I'm sorry you grew up with one parent. I'm sorry they didn't save money for your education or a dentist. I'm sorry your girlfriends leave you. Not all men develop properly in that area. Have you considered checking out the Catholic Church and maybe entering the priesthood.

      May 21, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
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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.