Tuesday, September 02, 2014

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Catholic Education Daily

 

New York Catholic High Schools, Health Groups Exempted from HHS Mandate

Two Catholic high schools in New York will not have to comply with the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate for employee coverage of sterilization, contraception and abortifacients, a federal district court judge of the Eastern District of New York ruled yesterday, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

The plaintiffs in the suit were six New York-area organizations affiliated with the Catholic Church including the Archdioceses of New York and Rockville Centre along with Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx, Monsignor Farrell High School in Staten Island and two Catholic healthcare institutions. 

The court dismissed the claims from the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Rockville Centre because they are already exempt from having to comply with the mandate.  The other four plaintiffs will be exempt from the HHS mandate on the basis of religious freedom.

“By their courageous court battle, these Catholic educators and health providers are paving the way toward renewed protection for religious freedom in the United States,” said Patrick Reilly, president of The Cardinal Newman Society.  “With this ruling, we can see the extreme policy of the Obama administration crumbling, as well it should.”

In the decision of Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York v. Sebelius, U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan, a President George W. Bush appointee, wrote that the groups “have demonstrated that the mandate, despite accommodation, compels them to perform acts that are contrary to their religion… And there can be no doubt that the coercive pressure here is substantial.”

Monsignor Peter Finn, co-vicar of Staten Island reportedly told SILive,"It seems to me to be a very helpful, logical decision that is very much in line with what the first Amendment of the Constitution has asked and requested us to do.”

Joseph Zwilling, director of communications for the Archdiocese of New York, also reportedly said, "The court has correctly cut through the artificial construct which essentially made faith-based organizations other than churches and other houses of worship second- class citizens with second-class First Amendment protections.”

Zwilling also reportedly said that religious freedom “must extend beyond merely being free to choose how we worship, and must include how we act in accord with our religious beliefs."

Richard Garnett of the University of Notre Dame Law School called it “a very good result for religious-but-not-exempt employers' bringing RFRA challenges to the mandate” on the blog Mirror of Justice.

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