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. thyme4chng

    Ridiculous. I am Catholic. But what happened to separation of church and state? Why should a non-Catholic who works for a religious organization be denied what everyone one in the US should have a right to? Since when can an employer have control over anyone's rights to insurance coverage. It makes no sense. If you are an employer in the US there should be no exceptions in required coverage regardless of religious affiliation.

    May 21, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
    • John Carroll

      You are using the seperation of church and state in a way that it was not intended. If you truly believe in the "seperation" of church and state, then the state should have no say in matters of the church. Instead, you seem to put forth the idea that the church should be subservient to the state, and the beliefs of a church should be secondary to beliefs and agendas of the state.

      May 21, 2012 at 11:49 pm |
    • ajk68

      First, the word is separation.

      But John is pretty much on target.

      In addition, contraception is not a right.

      Also, employers have always had control over what is included in the insurance. The company picks based on how much they are willing to pay. I used to have a better vision plan included in my insurance. Then again, I wouldn't trade my current insurance policy for anything (unless they wanted to add the vision without any other changes).

      @thyme4chng: Why should there be no exceptions? You make this statement but give no argument in support of such a broad conclusion.

      May 22, 2012 at 5:15 am |
    • FLIndependent

      "If you truly believe in the "seperation" of church and state, then the state should have no say in matters of the church"
      And that is why churches are exempt from this law. It is only Catholic run hospitals and universities that are to abide by it due to the fact they are businesses which employ non-Catholics – get it?? The Healthcare Act wasn't written for the churches, it was written for the people of this country of all faiths – get it??

      May 22, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • John Carroll

      FLI... a Catholic University or Hospital is a 501c3, recognized as a non-profit faith based corporation. Priests teach in Homilies at church, and there are Chaplans at Catholic Universities. Who determines where one ends and another begins?

      May 22, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  2. Jean

    So, the only way to prevent Catholics from using contraception is to make sure they don't have access to it? It sounds like their parishioners must not have been listening during their religious education classes, doesn't it? God giveth man free will...and the Church taketh away.

    May 21, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
  3. Maria Carvalho

    Oh, so many questions! Are they against the use of Viagra and such drugs? Or is this just plain old time misogygy?
    Do the boys know that WE have the numbers? Do they realize that they are making President Obama look like the proverbial knight in shining armor? And that we, good Catholic ladies, will make sure he is reelected so he can keep protecting us from the Inquisition?

    May 21, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
    • ajk68

      A good Catholic lady doesn't need contraception or sterilization. Neither does a good Catholic man.
      A good Catholic man has no interest in a woman who needs contraception or sterilization.
      A good Catholic lady has no interest in a man who needs contraception or sterilization.
      I know lots of good Catholic ladies and men and they will tell you the same thing.
      Contraception and sterilization is for barn-yard animals.

      May 22, 2012 at 5:22 am |
    • SPA Knight

      Always beware when someone proclaims themsaelves as "good". By definition, a man or woman who supports contraception and abortion and a government that funds this activity through mandate should probably conduct a deep examination of conscience and ask if they are truly practicing their faith accordingly. Jesus forgives our sinfulness but also expects us to seek out reconciliation and repent our ways. Disobedience against the teachings of the church simply makes us grow further away from the life of Christ.

      May 23, 2012 at 11:26 am |
  4. BillyD1953

    This is outrageous! These pedophiles and pedophile enablers and protectors can't be allowed to determine public policy based on their own hypocritical moral standards! The freedom of religion is just like our other freedoms. It is not absolute and cannot be exercised to the point where it impinges on the important freedoms of the rest of us. The very notion that one person's religious practices could be imposed on their employees is absurd. This is a secular and pluralistic society. Can you imagine everyone could reject any law they wanted to based simply on a religious objection to it? I for one would immediately stop paying the percent of my taxes that goes to support and fight all the stupid wars we start. Shall I now sue the government for that? If these hypocrites win this ridiculous lawsuit it will be giant step toward returning the U.S. to the dark ages or the Spanish Inquisition. Stop letting religious nuts influence public policy.

    May 21, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
    • John Carroll

      Actually, if the law suits are lost, it will be more like the years of 1500 to 1800 in England, where Catholicism was illegal and punishable by death. Note that the period of time of Catholic persecution in England was longer than the U.S. has been a free nation. You don't seem to understand that these Catholic Organizations WILL NOT pay for someone elses contraception and abortion. As a result, they will likely be fined out of existence or imprisoned.

      May 22, 2012 at 12:09 am |
    • Kyle

      Yes, forcing a school to provide contraception as part of their insurance policies is JUST like killing catholics.

      May 22, 2012 at 1:54 am |
    • John Carroll

      Kyle... it is religious persecution and Cathoics believe that to comply with the law could make them face eternity in hell.

      May 22, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
  5. Madisonian

    Bad reporting. There is no "revised rule." There was merely a non-binding promise made at a press conference to revise the rule to make insurance companies pay for the contraceptives, including abortifacient drugs. The same day, the administration made the pending rule "final." Read the complaints filed in the lawsuits. Read the HHS administrative acts cited in those lawsuits. Check your facts. Don't just take the White House talking points and weave them into your story uncritically as though they are factual, when they are not. If you wonder why your network's ratings keep plummeting, it's because more and more of the public see you and your colleagues as nothing but either "useful idiots" who will uncritically spout whatever this administration feeds you, or as partisan political hacks who knowingly peddle fraud. Want to know the truth? Go here: http://www.becketfund.org/fact-checking-the-white-house-false-claims-about-the-hhs-mandate/ and read the complaints and briefs filed in the (now at least 23) federal lawsuits against the HHS mandate, like REAL journalists are supposed to do!!!

    May 21, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
    • John Carroll

      Madisonian... more and more people are waking to the fact that the press is not reporting truth, but merely agenda. One only need to look at the bio of Frederick Henry Osborn to see how we came to this place as a nation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Osborn

      May 21, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
    • Mistakes and lazy coverage

      Well said, Madisonian. See my earlier post.

      May 22, 2012 at 12:53 am |
  6. Hank

    All this criticism toward the catholic church? Let's talk about that dysfunctional Muslim religion and they're frivolous lawsuits...

    May 21, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
    • chubby rain

      Better yet, lets get rid of religion in government in any form and talk about things that actually matter.

      May 21, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
    • ajk68

      chubby, you're the one reading the religion blogs.

      May 22, 2012 at 5:23 am |
  7. rob

    The religious nuts in this country are getting crazier by the day. We need to rid society of this dangerous vermin.

    May 21, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
    • John Carroll

      Rob... the French already tried that and much more zealously than you would likely feel comfortable with, ie. the guillotine and blood runnign like a river in the streets. Sorry to dissappoint you, but it didn't work.

      May 22, 2012 at 12:00 am |
  8. Coco

    The catholic church can not have it both ways. They should either run churches and sunday schools or if they are in businesses like universities and hospitals it should be fair game for them to follow rules like businesses do. Their other choice is they should just hire catholics and see how works for them.

    May 21, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
    • crowing

      Coco, yours is one I agree. A lifelong Catholic, I needed the bc pill for cramps, and I don't mean just cramps - these are big time ones and the pill was the only thing that worked. I like that idea of hiring only Catholics. I can almost laugh how that would work. For a Church which discriminates against women violating Christ's words of humanity; discrimination against non-Catholics should be no big deal. Until the lawsuits start. Women, when can we get together and overcome the discrimination against us?

      May 21, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
  9. Michael

    Until they clean up and fess up about the pedophiles they have in their oganization, their crys fall on deaf ears.

    May 21, 2012 at 9:57 pm |
  10. Topal

    I think the Catholic Church is stuck in the dark ages with its stance against birth control. I also believe that it is shameful that they are imposing their religious beliefs on THEIR EMPLOYEES, many of whom are not Catholic.

    May 21, 2012 at 9:56 pm |
    • a person of the Name

      Here's an idea if you don't like it quit.

      May 21, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
    • John Carroll

      Did you ever stop to think that maybe you are stuck in the dark ages as well? Next time you are flying in an airplane, be sure to force the pilot to stop adhering to those "old fashioned" and restrictive laws of aerodynamics.

      May 21, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
  11. CT

    This is why I left the church a few months ago. I am going to the Presbytarian Church now and we are spending time raising money for projects that benefit the poor and women. My favorite project is teaching women in countries where women are oppressed and poor to grow organic food to sell in the markets. gives them money, some independence and fresh produce for the community. Now THAT is what Jesus is about NOT politics!

    May 21, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
    • John Carroll

      CT-You may not realize it, but you probably left the Catholic Church a long time ago. In order to be Catholic, you have to be humble and conform your life to truth. If you wish to continue doing something that is considered sinful, you will find any number of ways to walk out of a Catholic Church. If you enjoyed steak and pork and chicken, would you want to still belong to a vegan organization? If you choose to eat meat, why force vegans to pay for your meat by Government edict?

      May 21, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
    • crowing

      John Carroll, that's quite a judgment on CT. The hierarchy of the men of the Church have practiced sin in pedophiles, discrimination against women, riches, etc. Some people can only take so much of these men. Others stick around to hope, pray and practice the changes that are Christ's.

      May 21, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
    • SPA Knight

      Crowing – I don't see where John Carroll was judging CT but simply making the point that people often take the road that conforms to their personal beliefs and desires rather than pursue a life of surrender and obedience which is much more difficult but reaps greater benefits. We are called to be in communion with Christ and that requires suffering. Despite the difficulty of his mission on Earth, Jesus accepted the will of God the Father and eventially was rewarded and glorified. Mary his mother also surrendered to God's will and became the greatest saint of the church ever. The Catholic Church places Mary at the center of church life which is far from discriminating against women. The Pope, Bishops, Priests and Laity all turn to Mary for her intercessions daily which is the greatest testimony of her role in salvation. There is no human male that has walked the planet other than Christ that has a higher place and there are countless other great and saintly women that have done great work including Mother Teresa and Mother Angelica that are living examples for men and women of faith. There roles may differ from that of men but they are by no means less important in the building of the kingdom. You are confusing the church heirarchy as one that can be manipulated to meet the world view of the day.

      May 22, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
  12. David

    The catholic church and the NCAA... Two of the most corrupt organizations in the world...

    May 21, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
  13. Repugnut Dumbocrat

    If those guys in the picture are catholics, how come so many of them have those jewish hats on their heads?

    May 21, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
  14. Dave in Arizona

    Where in the law does it require the employees of the Church to use contraception?

    Yeah. There isn't a requirement. Not a single person is being forced to do anything that violates their religious beliefs.

    If the Church is afraid their employees will use birth control despite it being against their teachings, then that's their own problem. Chances are those people are using birth control already. This won't stop them from doing so. So there's simply no moral issue involved here.

    May 21, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
    • Topal


      May 21, 2012 at 9:57 pm |
    • thyme4chng

      I have yet to figure that out either. To be a Catholic is to follow the tradition which includes not using birth control even if they have access to it. I completely don't understand why they are suing.

      May 21, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
    • John Carroll

      "Not a single person is being forced to do anything that violates their religious beliefs." That's quite inacurate. As an employee of a Catholic Organization, if I am forced by the Federal Government to pay for someone elses contraception through increased Insurance premiums, I will be being forced to pay for something that violates my beliefs. This is no different from requiring a vegitarian member of a vegitarian organization to pay to belong to a food coop that provides free steak, pork and chicken. If people want contraception, why not let them pay for it like they have been doing instead of forcing those who are opposed to it to pay for it? Forced through Governmental coersion no less...

      May 21, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
    • Reason Together

      They are suing because nuns run hospital and convents are self-insured. Why should nuns be forced to provide contraception against their conscience. If someone wishes to work for a Catholic Hospital they know this, in fact many of the nurses I know who are not catholic still wish to work for a Catholic hospital because they know they follow a good code of ethics. THEY CHOOSE to work there and accept the pluses and negatives.

      May 21, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
  15. Jim

    Bunch of Prevs in Dresses! Are there boys under all those gowns?

    May 21, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
  16. momoya

    Ughhhh!!!! RCC = Pure Disgust

    May 21, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
  17. Gunga

    Is there a robe factory that makes all them costumes ? or do they get them from spencers

    May 21, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
    • t3chn0ph0b3

      Each bishop you see in the above picture is actually individually pre-stamped at a factory in the Vatican basement and is shipped via the DC8 shaped ships that the Church of Scientology rents out to them. Here, they are individually dressed and adorned by artisans from the Swiss Alps. Then, a troop of volunteer Mummers carefully places each bishop in an individual chair and rearranges their limbs in startlingly lifelike positions for press junkets.

      May 21, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
  18. bob

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

    Of course it keeps women down, and breeds more followers

    May 21, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
  19. grantorino

    Where are all the comments discrediting the Church as just a bunch or racist white guys?

    May 21, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
  20. Kimip

    They refuse to offer women BC, but have no problem paying for a man's vasectomy.

    This just goes to prove that organized religion is a cult and that they feel all women are inferior and should be treated as such.

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

      The Catholic church is equally against vasectomies as they are against birth control. Check facts at reliable sources in the future.

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

      John is right they prefer castration so they can sing in the choir.

      May 21, 2012 at 9:53 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.