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Catholic Education Daily


Federal Judge Rejects Notre Dame Suit Against HHS Mandate, Citing Delayed Filing

A federal judge has denied the University of Notre Dame’s request for relief from the Obama administration’s mandate forcing insurance coverage for contraceptives, abortifacients and sterilization procedures, according to court documents, in part because of the University’s delayed filing.

In Friday’s strongly worded and highly critical decision, District Judge Philip Simon, a George W. Bush appointee, wrote that it is Notre Dame’s prerogative to object to providing contraceptives on religious grounds. “But,” he added, “the law provides religious employers like Notre Dame an out by allowing it to file a certification saying it refuses to provide such services.”

“If Notre Dame takes that tack, someone else provides the coverage, and not on Notre Dame’s dime,” he said. “Notre Dame nonetheless claims that by formally opting out, it would trigger, or authorize, a third party’s provision of contraception, and it objects to that.”

Judge Simon accused the University of attempting to “eat its cake, and have it still, at the expense of Congress, administrative agencies, and the employees who will be affected.” 

Notre Dame may have undermined its own case by waiting until this month to request relief. Judge Simon wrote that the delay “raises a question of Notre Dame’s own view of the injury it faces under the regulation.”

In 2012, Notre Dame filed its initial case on similar grounds against the HHS mandate. That case was dismissed without prejudice, because Notre Dame lacked standing and the Obama administration was still promising to change the law.

In July 2013, the Administration published its final regulations, but Notre Dame waited until this month to file its lawsuit.

“Notre Dame certainly knew about the proposed regulations long ago… The affidavit detailing excuses for the late filing of this lawsuit are frankly a little hard to swallow,” he wrote. “In sum, Notre Dame has in many ways created its own emergency, and I am left to wonder why.”

The Sycamore Trust, an alumni organization committed to promoting Notre Dame’s Catholic identity, said that the judge’s decision doesn’t fit with at least two other recent federal district court decisions, though it does conform with one other.

“We consider his legal analysis infirm,” states the Trust on its website. “We hope Notre Dame’s prolonged indecisiveness will not continue to dog this litigation.”

Judge Simon also stated that in making his decision, he considered a friend of the court brief filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The University immediately appealed to the Court of Appeals, according to the Trust, as the mandate is set to go into effect on January 1, 2014.

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