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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. FLIndependent

    If the Catholic Church believes using b.c. is a sin because it alters the natural process and goes against God's will then why don't they have any problem with in vitro fertilization? I'm a lapsed Catholic and the main reason is because I came to a point where I realized how much hypocrisy there is within the Church. I'm sure there are many others out there that feel the same way.

    May 22, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • BRC

      @FLI,
      The Catholic Church has a huge problem with IVF, they consider it very much a sin.

      May 22, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      They have a problem with IVF becuase multiple ovum are fertilized until a viable embryo can be implanted, which to Catholic thinking means murdering all those other children that don't get implanted.

      May 22, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • FLIndependent

      Well that may be the case, but if we want to look at the politics of invitro, the Republicans are all for it, yet they want to take away birth control. Also, if a woman has a baby by invitro, I'm sure the Church won't deny baptizing that baby because it was conceived by unnatural means, right?

      May 22, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • BRC

      @FLI,
      Very true. I'm not saying it doesn't smack of hypocrisy, just pointing out their position.

      May 22, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • John Carroll

      FLI...Now you are starting to get it... Faithfull Catholics are neither staunch Democrats or Republicans. They have issues with both sides. And yes, the child would be Baptized, because the child now exists and had no part in the destruction of unused embryos. If you are a lapsed Catholic, I encourage you to read the Catechism and learn what you weren't taught as a child. It's quite beautiful.

      May 22, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
  2. Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

    Well we know the Catholic priests wouldn't need contraception because they are too busy diddling little boys...

    May 22, 2012 at 9:33 am |
  3. FLIndependent

    The Catholic Church is obviously the largest in the entire world, so I have to wonder how this issue was handled with other countries that have universal health care. I would imagine that those countries also provide for birth control coverage so was the Catholic Church exempted? Just wonder if anyone knows.

    May 22, 2012 at 9:29 am |
    • John Carroll

      Great question FLI... You would learn a lot by studying the Catholic Church in China. Here is a recent article. http://www.catholicculture.org/news/headlines/index.cfm?storyid=14104 Remember, China, as a socialist nation, has a "one child" policy. They have started a mirror "Catholic Church" which falls under the control of the civil government. We have something similar here, but more subversive.

      May 22, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  4. mcskadittle

    So let me get this straight, The government cannot tell you that your coverage has to include contraception but the government has to tell gays they cannot get married?

    May 22, 2012 at 9:24 am |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      Pretty much.

      It isn't hypocritical at all. Nope, not in the least.

      May 22, 2012 at 9:27 am |
    • Primewonk

      And in some states they can force pregnant women to be ràped with transvàginal ultrasound probes.

      May 22, 2012 at 10:39 am |
  5. Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

    I don't even get why this is still an issue. Okay, at first the church-sponsored insti-tutions were going to have to be responsible for footing the bill for the contraception. I was opposed to this. Then Obama made a compromise and said that the insurance companies would have to cover the costs of it. The church doesn't even have to pay for it! Nobody is making Catholics use it. Contraceptives have a wide range of uses outside of just birth control. It helps in a lot of aspects of women's health. Not only that, it is proven that 98% of se-xually active Catholic women use some form of birth control. So where is the issue? I just don't get it.

    Jon Stewart made a very good point about this. As a comedian, what if he were to say that laughter is the best medicine and that was his firmly held religious conviction? Does this mean he should be able to dictate what kind of treatment the insurance companies cover?

    May 22, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • sancheuz

      What if I'm a faithful Catholic, and own a business with employees? Should I be made to violate my conscientious beliefs and buy birth control pills for my employees?

      May 22, 2012 at 9:38 am |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      You would not have to pay for it. The insurance companies are paying for it. Why is this so hard to grasp?

      May 22, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • Primewonk

      @ Sancheuz – did you not read the article – or any of the other dozen articles?

      " The Obama administration, in an attempt at a compromise, revised the rule to require health insurance companies – not employers – to provide contraception coverage"

      So tell me, will also be checking your unmarried female employees for intact hymens? Do you expect any difficulties in doing this? If you are paying your employees a wage, and they use part of those wages to buy contraception, you are in fact supporting them using contraception. You will need to start doing MRI's on all your female workers, making sure there are no IUD's or Norplants hidden away. Men will need swabs of their penîses looking for latex residue.

      And to make sure that no unmarried employees are having sèx you will need to start using Luminol in everyone's mouths, vàginas, and bûtts, looking foe seamen.

      May 22, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • WASP

      @sancheuz
      "What if I'm a faithful Catholic, and own a business with employees? Should I be made to violate my conscientious beliefs and buy birth control pills for my employees?
      May 22, 2012 at 9:38 am"

      if you are running a business then yes by law you should have to provide insurance for your employees health; some of those employees may have problems that need to be treated with b.c. due to problems in hormone levels. so if you are not running a church then yes you will and should provide coverage for your employees because you aren't highering only catholics, so your religious views come second to your employees health.

      May 22, 2012 at 10:30 am |
  6. Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

    I love how they want separation of church and state... until it comes down to stuff like gay marriage and intelligent design taught in schools.

    May 22, 2012 at 9:11 am |
  7. ShawnDH

    Ummm, why do religious fanatics think they can dictate national health care policy? Who do tney think they are? Forcing your employees to live according to your religious beliefs is NOT religious freedom. It's religious fascism and oppression. NO TALIBAN IN AMERICA!

    May 22, 2012 at 9:05 am |
    • Thomas Jefferson

      The Catholic church will not dismiss any student or faculty member for using birth control. They just don't want to pay for it. They are being forced to by the government. Who is for freedom?

      May 22, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      Thomas Jefferson, they don't have to pay for it. The mandate makes it so the insurance companies have to foot the bill. So what are you mad about again?

      May 22, 2012 at 9:18 am |
    • Thomas Jefferson

      Employers do foot some of the bill for employees health insurance.

      May 22, 2012 at 9:22 am |
    • Primewonk

      No TJ – the rule Obama caved on now says the insurance companies pay for contraception. These theist bigots don't pay a cent. I really can't see why they have a legal leg to stand on with the lawsuit.

      May 22, 2012 at 9:31 am |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      No Thomas Jefferson, the insurance companies are covering it directly. The additional coverage for contraception will not even show up in the premiums.

      May 22, 2012 at 9:32 am |
    • 2Kids+2Angels

      @Thomas Jefferson– How much is this cost for contraceptive coverage? I would be willing to bet it comes included in a very basic health care policy. This is not about the cost– come on...

      May 22, 2012 at 9:37 am |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      2Kids+2Angels, it isn't about how much it costs. It is about the principle of the matter. They don't want to have to be responsible for paying for something they are morally opposed to. I can get behind that. However, Obama compromised and made it so that insurance companies are the one's footing the bill. The Catholic-run inst-itutions would not have had contraceptions as part of their health care previously. With the additional coverage, premiums would have gone up under normal circu-mstances. That was until Obama made it so that the insurance companies would foot the entire bill for the contraception coverage.

      May 22, 2012 at 10:26 am |
  8. Thomas Jefferson

    Mr. Obama seems to want to establish a state religion where all religions must conform to what he believes before their rights will be protected. It's amazing how liberals are the one tearing down the wall of separation between church and state.

    May 22, 2012 at 9:05 am |
    • ShawnDH

      Wrong. Liberals are defending the separation of church and state. Conservatives are breaking it down. Catholic weirdos do not make national health care policy. Elected legislators do. I guess your idea of "religious freedom" is forcing everybody to live according to your religious beliefs. Typical conservative. Bass-Ackwards in every way. Go away and let us live freely in America.

      May 22, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • Thomas Jefferson

      Religion is voluntary so is attending and working at Catholic schools. If the Catholic church is morally opposed to providing contraception services they should be able to do so. These services are readily available in every community. The church just does not want to be forced to provide them. No matter how you argue it it boils down to the church being forced by the government to do something they find morally objectionable. This amounts to government tyranny.

      May 22, 2012 at 9:13 am |
    • BRC

      @Thomas Jefferson,
      You are misrepresenting the law. It wouldn't require catholic affiliated insttutions to provide services they object to, it would require them to provide their employees with a program that would pay for them to recieve those services somewhere else. There is a monumental difference. If you're going to use a founding father's name, you should at least do it the credit of being able to think like one.

      May 22, 2012 at 9:32 am |
    • Primewonk

      How is the church providing for contraception. The insurance carriers are required to provide contraception. What part of this is so hard to understand?

      May 22, 2012 at 9:34 am |
    • 2Kids+2Angels

      If the Catholic Church wants to dictate policy, It should be running churches and not businesses. When I delivered my 2 Angels, I was taken to a Catholic hospital– I did not have a choice.

      May 22, 2012 at 9:34 am |
  9. FLIndependent

    It's amazing to me that the Church has so much money that they can sue the government, but still get their tax exemptions. It's time for the Catholic Church to come into the 21st Century and acknowledge the fact that most Catholic women use birth control. Some of the nuns realize it so it is the white males that rule the religion that aren't backing down. For them to hold onto the antiquated idea that using birth control is wrong is simply crazy in today's world. Within just my lifetime (over 50) I've seen many changes to so-called "sacred" rituals/beliefs of the Catholic Church and it is past time that this belief be changed also. If they want to run businesses then they need to abide by the law, period!

    May 22, 2012 at 9:04 am |
    • John Carroll

      FLI... and why do you stick to that out date notion that 2 plus 2 is 4? Maybe you should join the 21st centrury and embrace true relativism instead of just moral relativism.

      May 22, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
  10. Don't Tell Your mother

    Luckily for the Vatican, little boys rarely get pregnant...

    May 22, 2012 at 9:00 am |
  11. Patrick

    Oh look, CNN finally got on the same page as the rest of the country. Old news but then CNN carries water for the Obama administration so no surprise.

    May 22, 2012 at 8:57 am |
  12. Jeff from Columbus

    @Anie: So, your stance is that the Catholic Church shouldn't run schools or hospitals? Ok, shut them down. Now, good luck filling the HUGE gap in education and health services created by shutting down Catholic owned hospitals and schools.

    But, hey, religion is then only in the church and home. So, its all good. Except for the HUGE taxpayer expense because all of the Catholic school kids now need to go to public schools. Not to mention the gap in health services.

    May 22, 2012 at 8:49 am |
    • Primewonk

      Jeff, just because a religious group runs a business, should it be excused from laws and rules? If a religious group runs a program that gets federal funding, should it be excused from laws and rules?

      Should the cafeteria in the catholic hospital be exempt from health-code laws? Should they be able to say that they refuse to use proper cleaners after cutting up chickens, because they will just pray over the cutting boards to clean them?

      Should a methodist school be able to force it's female employees to stay home each month during their periods, because they are "unclean".

      Should a southern baptist hospital be able to refuse to treat a black person?

      May 22, 2012 at 9:00 am |
  13. Leviticus 18&20

    So does this mean that gay rights groups can sue the catholic church for hate crimes against them?!?!

    May 22, 2012 at 8:40 am |
  14. Anie

    Religion belOngs in church and home only. Schools, hospitals, etc are businesses and should abide by all regulations set forth.

    May 22, 2012 at 8:37 am |
  15. Roywarner

    This is just the church's attempt to say there is a war on religion. Boo-Hoo! Let these OLD men discriminate against women as they have done for centuries. How many of these very same bishops are guilty of hiding pedophiles? The credibility here (lack there of) is astounding. Now you have the "Faithful" still going to church, still supporting criminal activity by not speaking out against it, holding their leaders accountable. This means that those very "faithful" are complicate in the very same crimes by keeping & remaining silent. It's time the people stop being afraid of a bunch of old, whiney, crotchety old men that are SO out of touch with reality it's harming those around them. Start by sending a message by arresting & sentencing these bishops to jail for crimes against humanity. Start with Cardinal of the Washington area, & and this president Jenkins of ND. It's time to stand firm against religious intolerance & the crimes they continue to commit. Now ask the 98% of catholic women that are currently on birth control. End the War on Women & the falsey accused War on Religion as the distraction for their actions. Phoney Baloney all the way around.

    May 22, 2012 at 8:21 am |
    • horace

      If only there were a war on religion. Religion has too much power and influence in this world.

      May 22, 2012 at 9:43 am |
  16. Jeff from Columbus

    The comments on here are laughable. So, if the Catholic Church holds beliefs YOU don't believe in, they deserve to be coerced by the government to violate those beliefs?

    The Catholic Church doesn't want to pay for contraceptive and abortion-inducing drugs. But, the government is forcing them to pay for those drugs. But, that's ok? Really?

    Its ok to liberals because its about contraception and abortion. The end justifies the means, I guess.

    I thought liberals used to care about freedoms in this country? Apparently not, anymore. Liberals are enabling our government to gain more and more control over our lives. Don't they understand that the President won't always be a Democrat? What happens when Romney is elected in November and he controls the government?

    You can't take back control that you've given to the government. Its gone. Lost. And now its controlled by a Republican.

    I just wish people would stop looking at the world ONLY through partisan glasses and realize what they're doing.

    May 22, 2012 at 8:15 am |
    • Primewonk

      No. The church is not being required to pay. The insurance companies are. Why do folks spread these lies?

      May 22, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • SPA Knight

      Primewonk – How does an insurance pay for contraception without recovering those costs? Could it be that the costs are buried into everyone's premiums that are paying for the insurance thereby all are paying for the contraception. The idea that someone else is physically writing the check for someone else's immoral behavior does not excuse you. The catholic Church isn'tlooking at this from a legalistic stanpoint so that they can justify bad behavior to their board of directors. Nothing is free and morality cannot be paid for with blood money.

      May 22, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  17. McShannon

    We cannot allow nor should we expect favoritism for a particular religious establishment, income group, or any representation asking that tax law, law affecting civil rights or any legislation that unfairly gives advantage to others to be entertained by the President of the USA. He must represent all Americans and he must do it with impunity.

    May 22, 2012 at 8:11 am |
  18. Awesome_Mom

    Take away the churches' tax exempt status! They are run like businesses anyway......the Vatican corporation. RCC = Rapist Criminal Clergy

    May 22, 2012 at 8:07 am |
  19. me

    So let me get this straight its morally wrong to use birth control but hiding 2000 pedophile priests within your Catholic circle is ok. Sick

    May 22, 2012 at 8:02 am |
  20. t.marino

    Funny...I used to be a Catholic until the number of priests who committed pedophilia came to light. So many...and they hid them and continue to do so. There was a priest in my area that was removed suddenly and sent to another church because he fondled a little boy. I cannot stomach even thinking about going back, now even more so.

    May 22, 2012 at 7:49 am |
    • horace

      They have been doing it for centuries.

      May 22, 2012 at 9:44 am |
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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.