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. Billy

    This was a blatant violation of the First Amendment until until Obama made it so only health insurance companies have to offer this stuff. Now I just have no idea what Notre Dame is upset about.

    May 22, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • Primewonk

      The original law did not violate the first. Churches were exempt. Businesses were not. Letting some businesses ignore the law while forcing the business next door to follow it is unconstîtutional.

      May 22, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      Anything to smokescreen the blatant child abuse coverup by the church hierarchy.

      May 22, 2012 at 11:23 am |

    The Catholic Chruch:

    Please leave us alone. We don't need health care for women. We simply need to be left alone with more and more altar boys.

    May 22, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • SouthernCelt

      Please leave us alone and we will leave you alone.

      May 22, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • Primewonk

      @ SouthernCelt – No you won't. You theists keep trying to force your religious mythology into our secular laws. You keep trying to force your religious mythology into our public school science and history classes. YYou keep trying to force your religious mythology into women's vàgina's and men's bûtts.

      May 22, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  3. wendy jane

    Until they start paying taxes, they need to shut up about how the government runs things.

    May 22, 2012 at 11:06 am |
  4. Primewonk

    Many theists (erroneously) claim that atheism is a religion.

    Fine. Then my atheist religion no longer wants to pay for coverage for Catholics to get statins to treat hyperlipidemia. Nor does my religion want to pay for coverage for Baptists to get glipizides to treat Type II diabetes. These diseases are obviously caused by ungodly lifestyles (gluttony is a deadly sin). My god has stricken these people with these diseases as punishment. They obviously need to become vegans. Why should I have to pay for these sick sinners to keep eating bacon cheeseburgers. If they want pills, let them pay for them themselves.

    May 22, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • SouthernCelt

      I don't call Atheism a religion, but then I am educated as you plainly are not about medicine. There are several causes of Type II Diabetes, the least of which is being overweight. Most are born with it and it doesn't show up until after age 45 no matter how they live or how much they weigh.

      May 22, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • Primewonk

      @ SouthernCelt – I'm not sure how long you've been in medicine. I've got almost 30 years in. Much of it in research and epidemiology. Also not sure where you are getting your medical informayion, but the CDC reports that 95% of type II diabetes is a result of obesity and lack of exercise.

      May 22, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  5. Jackson

    You have the love the absolutely blatant hypocrisy at play here.

    The church does not want the government involved in their workings. Yet they have no problem involving themselves in the government's workings.

    Can't have it both ways!

    May 22, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • nappy

      If the church teaches that the use of conterceptives is morally wrong and it only wants good practicing Catholics teaching in their schools, then when will they fire those Catholic teachers who are now using birth control.

      May 22, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • Huebert

      SHHH... don't bring logic in to an argument it'll scare the fundies.

      May 22, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • Kenjitheman

      Already done. Didnt georgetown U. already fire a teacher for it?

      May 22, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • nappy

      IIt was not a teacher but a law student who testified before congress, i think.

      May 22, 2012 at 11:27 am |

    I think it's time the Arch-Bishops pack their mitres and return to Rome! They're representatives of a foreign government and they're trying to takeover ours!

    May 22, 2012 at 10:54 am |
  7. Bob

    I thought the original rule made sense. The compromise is OK, but seems unnecessary.

    Thought experiment: imagine that employees can purchase their own health insurance for exactly the same cost per employee that the employer pays. The employer stops providing health insurance directly and gives them that money. The employee purchases health insurance with what is now clearly their own money. If the government required health insurance companies to offer contraception as an option in their coverage, would you think the employer should have any ability to tell that employee that they couldn't purchase that option? If the requirement was that the insurance company provide contraception coverage at no cost to the employee purchasing it, would you think that the employer should tell that employee that couldn't use that coverage?

    It's no different if the employer is buying the insurance for their employees. It's still a form of compensation. The employer buys for the employee because presumably they get a better price and their are currently tax laws that make it advantageous to the employee to do that instead of getting the equivalent value in wages. But it's still compensation and so it belongs to the employee not the employer. The employer can obviously change how they compensate their employees, but once they've settled on a package, the employee owns whatever the employer chooses to give them and the employer has no rights telling their employees how to make use of what they are giving them.

    May 22, 2012 at 10:54 am |
  8. msadr

    The catholics have trapped themselves in a catch-22 here. Everyone agrees that they have a right to fight for their religious freedom. But the issue they have chosen to fight over only highlights their ridiculous view of women and reproductive choices. It's like they're standing up and fighting fiercely for their right to remain idiots who try to control women in the name of Jesus! The majority of us can respect them for wanting to fight for their freedom, but we disrespect them for what they use that freedom for. On a side note, contraception (including morning after varieties) and abortions were very common every-day things in the middle east 2000 years ago. Yet Jesus never mentioned it. Not once.

    May 22, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • BRC

      They're in a similar quandry with the gay marriage thing. The LGBT community gaining access to fully state sanctioned marriages has 0 effect on the Church, but they fight it tooth and nail. IT makes them look like the bigotted out of touch lumbering organization that we atheists so enjoy pointing out that they are. If they would just shut up and let this one go by, it would take away a lot of the ability for people to give examples of the church's opressive nature in its modern behavior (they still treat women like 2nd class citizens, but hey, baby steps).

      May 22, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • Jen

      Abortion is not birth control. It is also not a "religious" issue, it's a humanitarian issue.

      May 22, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • SPA Knight

      Jen – You state that "Abortion is not birth control. It is also not a "religious" issue, it's a humanitarian issue". You are certainly correct that it's not birth control. In fact it's the systematic destruction of human beings similar to genocide. I guess that does make it a humanitarian issue that results from a culture that is morally corrupt if it allows this to happen.

      May 25, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • SPA Knight

      msadr & BRC – You are both incorrect in your assessment about the Church's view on women. In fact, it is the Church that is fighting for the dignity of women and they do not treat them like second class citizens. Contraception and abortions are not choices that increase the dignity of women but accomplish the exact opposite. Those who promote these things do so in error believing than these "choices" empowers women but it actually enslaves women into being objectified. The Catholic Church has Mary at their center of their devotional life along with several other great saints that include Mother Teresa and Mother Angelica. Mary was chosen and accepted to be the vehicle that brought Jesus Christ to us. This is why we say Hail Mary, Full of Grace, the Lord is with Thee. She was the only perfect human being to walk this planet in humble obedience. The Church laity, Pope, Bishops and countless other religious ask for her intercession daily because she is the closest to Christ and she gladly intercedes on their behalf. Women have the greatest model in the universe of true "womenhood" but prefer to focus on earthly men working the in the vineyard.

      May 25, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • LinCA

      @SPA Knight

      You said, "In fact, it is the Church that is fighting for the dignity of women and they do not treat them like second class citizens."
      Bullshit. If they truly wanted them to not be second class citizens, they have to let them make their own choices.

      By removing the choice, and therefor forcing them to accept your choice, they are attempting to make them second rate citizens. If your choice is the right one, they will make that choice for themselves. The only reason why the church is trying to remove the choice, is to keep women subservient.

      May 25, 2012 at 11:07 am |
  9. Floretta

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; (First Amendment) Simply stated, no religion or its tenets will become the law of the land, as in a state religion common in many parts of the world. AND no law prohibiting the free exercise thereof – meaning, members of any religious group are free to follow their own rules BUT are NOT allowed to impose them on others. If I am a devout member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, for example, Catholic clergy may not impose their rules regarding contraception or anything else on me.

    By design, the only dogma allowed in the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is the rejection of dogma. That is, there are no strict rules and regulations, there are no rote rituals and prayers and other nonsense. Every member has a say in what this church is and what it becomes.


    May 22, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • No Truth, Just Claims


      May 22, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • John Carroll

      Floretta, but conversely, you cannot then impose your beliefs on Catholics, right?

      May 22, 2012 at 10:27 pm |
  10. HeyZues

    I count 32 pedo's in that picture.

    May 22, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • SouthernCelt

      I count an anti-Catholic bigot in your posting. Blaming all 1B of us for the actions of a few is both ignorant and hateful.

      May 22, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • BADGUY

      SouthernCelt – But the 1Billion don't run the Church. The Pedo's do!

      May 22, 2012 at 10:56 am |
  11. BADGUY

    If ALL companies are required to cover contraception, how can "dispensation" be given to Catholic "businesses" (Hospitals, Universities, etc)! It's NOT fair to the others!

    May 22, 2012 at 10:48 am |
    • maximusvad

      Who said Jesus was fair.

      May 22, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • SPA Knight

      Companies were not required to provide insurance to their employees until mandated. Corporations are not obligated to provide employees with car insurance and other types of benefits but are asked to provide medical and life insurance. Technically speaking, and this was the business model for many years, it was the individual's responsibility to purchasec his/her own benefits privately. The benefits of having corporations provide these was for purchase power but perhaps we should return to the private model and allow businesses to focus on their core work. In that way, any private citizen can purchase specific coverage as they desire. This would satisfy both sides.

      May 23, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
  12. KarinCP

    The White House should stay out of these religious things – focus on USA JOBS instead – and figuring out How to bring some of the Chinese Jobs back to the USA – like the circa 1+ Billion Jobs APPLE has over there – cannot tell me that an American can't do one of those jobs !?!

    May 22, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • Primewonk

      Many of us don't consider reproductive health to be a religious issue. We consider it to be a MEDICAL issue. And MEDICAL issues should be in the domain of the MEDICAL professionals, and not folks who purposefully choose to be scientifically ignorant.

      May 22, 2012 at 10:57 am |
  13. Colin

    So, the Catholic Church wants to sue in courts that taxpayers pay for over a policy implemented by an executive that tax payers pay for, but dón't want to pay any taxes. I tell you what, the minute that the Roman Catholic Church and its priests pay taxes, their voices will be relevant.

    Until then, go back to peddling after death fantasies to gullible people and leave the running of the system to those who contribute to it.

    May 22, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • SouthernCelt

      Read the article more carefully, please. The Roman Catholic Church isn't suing anyone. Forty Three "Catholic" groups are suing the government for violating the First Amendment. I say "Catholic" because the faith of some of them is questionable.

      May 22, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • Colin

      agreed, but the source of the opposition is the RCC. Everybody accepts that.

      May 22, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  14. Richard

    This sounds great. If I have a large company and have a religious belief that the worlds population needs to be controlled at its current levels I could deny coverage for employees dependants if they have more than 1 or 2 dependants. I get to be morally justified in my actions and save a ton of money on my employee health care.

    May 22, 2012 at 10:44 am |
  15. Reality

    "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."


    May 22, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • SouthernCelt

      and the Obama Administration is trying to promote a law that will overrule all of them. Not right is it?

      May 22, 2012 at 10:58 am |
  16. Mike Texoma

    This is much ado about nothing. This is God's church but it is owned and operated by men, and there is power to grab and they have political axes to grind, and they are governed (or appear to be governed) by heat and passion, so they wind up acting liike the arrogant and dogmatic numbskulls they are.

    The Catholic dog is not in this fight, there is no governmental mandate upon the church, and so when they fly off like this they risk real harm to the very rock they profess to stand upon.

    May 22, 2012 at 10:37 am |
    • Reality

      The reality of se-x, contraception and STD control: – from a guy who enjoys intelligent se-x-

      Note: Some words hyphenated to defeat an obvious word filter. ...

      The Brutal Effects of Stupidity:

      : The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the Pill ( 8.7% failure rate) and male con-dom (17.4% failure rate) have led to the large rate of abortions and S-TDs in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or co-ndoms properly and/or use safer methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.- Failure rate statistics provided by the Gut-tmacher Inst-itute. Unfortunately they do not give the statistics for doubling up i.e. using a combination of the Pill and a condom.

      Added information before making your next move:

      from the CDC-2006

      "Se-xually transmitted diseases (STDs) remain a major public health challenge in the United States. While substantial progress has been made in preventing, diagnosing, and treating certain S-TDs in recent years, CDC estimates that approximately 19 million new infections occur each year, almost half of them among young people ages 15 to 24.1 In addition to the physical and psy-ch-ological consequences of S-TDs, these diseases also exact a tremendous economic toll. Direct medical costs as-sociated with STDs in the United States are estimated at up to $14.7 billion annually in 2006 dollars."

      And from:

      Consumer Reports, January, 2012

      "Yes, or-al se-x is se-x, and it can boost cancer risk-

      Here's a crucial message for teens (and all se-xually active "post-teeners": Or-al se-x carries many of the same risks as va-ginal se-x, including human papilloma virus, or HPV. And HPV may now be overtaking tobacco as the leading cause of or-al cancers in America in people under age 50.

      "Adolescents don’t think or-al se-x is something to worry about," said Bonnie Halpern-Felsher professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. "They view it as a way to have intimacy without having 's-ex.'" (It should be called the Bill Clinton Syndrome !!)

      Obviously, political leaders in both parties, Planned Parenthood, parents, the "stupid part of the USA" and the educational system have failed miserably on many fronts.

      The most effective forms of contraception, ranked by "Perfect use":

      1a. (Abstinence, 0% failure rate)- RCC approved
      1b. (Masturbation, mono or mutual, 0% failure rate)

      Followed by:

      One-month injectable and Implant (both at 0.05 percent)
      Vasectomy and IUD (Mirena) (both at 0.1 percent)
      The Pill, Three-month injectable, and the Patch (all at 0.3 percent)
      Tubal sterilization (at 0.5 percent)
      IUD (Copper-T) (0.6 percent)
      Periodic abstinence (Post-ovulation) (1.0 percent)- RCC approved
      Periodic abstinence (Symptothermal) and Male condom (both at 2.0 percent) – RCC approved
      Periodic abstinence (Ovulation method) (3.0 percent)- RCC approved

      Every other method ranks below these, including Withdrawal (4.0), Female condom (5.0), Diaphragm (6.0), Periodic abstinence (calendar) (9.0), the Sponge (9.0-20.0, depending on whether the woman using it has had a child in the past), Cervical cap (9.0-26.0, with the same caveat as the Sponge), and Spermicides (18.0).

      May 22, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • BADGUY

      The Catholic Church NEEDS to support the Republican Party...because it NEEDS the Republican Party. The Democrats will not come to the rescue of the Catholic Church's Pedophile scandal. The Republicans have probably told them they WILL. But the Catholic Church HAS to turn out it's 57 Million members as Republican voters.

      May 22, 2012 at 10:45 am |
  17. YBP

    Newsflash: The US is not an Italian city-state circa 1600 CE under vatican governance. If that's where you'd like to live, then by all means step into a Time Machine and move there. (But beware of the latest inquisition while you're there.) Every church must find a way to exist within the secular laws of the US.

    May 22, 2012 at 10:29 am |
  18. Bobbi

    Okay badley...let's go after Baptist, Boy Scouts, counselors, etc. This is a big issue for Catholics so stay out of what you really don't know.

    May 22, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • Primewonk

      So Catholics don't want insurance companies covering contraception for anyone? When did the church get the power to control what private companies do?

      Your churches are not being made to pay for this. Why do you have a say in it?

      May 22, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      It is such a big issue that 98% of Catholic women who are se-xually active use contraception.

      May 22, 2012 at 11:28 am |
  19. rad666

    Why did God create Adam with a penis and sperm if there was no Eve?

    May 22, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • Primewonk

      Hell, rad666, why in all the paintings of Adam and Eve, do they have navels? Neither of them was born, so what purpose would a navel have?

      May 22, 2012 at 10:35 am |
  20. Badley

    The Catholics have bigger issues than this, first they need to come out and deal with the massive problem of Priests raping young men, this is just a smoke screen for them hide thier own misgivings.

    May 22, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • Reality

      Why did today's pope, prelates, preachers and rabbis, so focused on society's se-xual sins, lose sight of clerical se-xual sins?


      Obviously ordination in any religion is not assurance of good behavior !!!!!

      Neither is coronation!!! e.g. Henry VIII, King David.

      Neither is marriage as 50% of those men convicted of pedophilia are married.

      Neither is being elected president of the USA!! e.g. Billy "I did not have se-x with that girl" Clinton, John "Marilyn Monroe" Kennedy".

      Neither is possessing super athletic skill!!! e.g. Tiger "I am so sorry for getting caught" Woods.

      Neither is being an atheist or pagan since pedophilia is present in all walks of life.

      If someone is guilty of a crime in this litany of "neithers" they should or should have been penalized as the law dictates to include jail terms for pedophiliacs (priests, rabbis, evangelicals, boy scout leaders, married men/women), divorce for adultery (Clinton, Kennedy, Woods), jail terms for obstruction of justice (Clinton, Cardinal Law) and the death penalty or life in prison for murder ("Kings David and Henry VIII).

      May 22, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • SouthernCelt

      Are you ever going to get over that and find a current way to bash the Church? Less than 1/10 of 1% of Priests were involved in that scandal. All the rest are good, decent, holy men who work harder and longer than you do every day.

      May 22, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      SouthernCelt, maybe you don't understand the massive coverup and hush money dished around for the se-x abuse scandal. Not only did the church hierarchy know about it, they instrumental in moving priests around to new churches without letting the church members know about the preist's past. If you don't see the evil in this, then there is no hope for you. Just so you know, every time you drop money in the collection plate, you are donating to the Pedophile Defense Fund.

      May 22, 2012 at 11:26 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.