In the week before the HHS contraceptive mandate is scheduled to go into effect, conflicting decisions have descended from courts concerning Catholic colleges seeking relief from the Obama administration’s infringement on religious freedom, according to Catholic Culture.
In recent days, courts have ruled against The Catholic University of America, the University of Notre Dame, the Archdiocese of Washington and Priests for Life, while granting relief to Thomas Aquinas College in California, Cardinal Spellman High School and Monsignor Farrell High School in New York, and Legatus, an organization of Catholic business executives. There have been other mixed rulings on the HHS mandate, and many more are expected prior to January 1, when the mandate goes into effect.
Thomas Aquinas College was exempted today by a federal district judge from complying with the HHS mandate, because the College is self-insured. But co-plaintiffs in the case -- including The Catholic University of America and the Archdiocese of Washington -- were denied exemptions.
The mixed messages from the courts make it increasingly likely that the U.S. Supreme Court will eventually hear a case on the constitutionality of the mandate being enforced on explicitly religious nonprofit institutions such as Catholic colleges and schools. The Court has already agreed to hear challenges from Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties and will decide whether family-owned companies can exercise religion.
The Archdiocese of Washington issued a statement on its website calling the ruling by the U.S. District Court for Washington D.C. “an astonishing decision that conflicts with the well-reasoned rulings of many other federal courts around the country.”
The Archdiocese has already announced plans to immediately appeal the decision, as has Notre Dame.
“Since the regulations take effect on January 1, 2014, and would force the Archdiocese’s affiliated ministries to violate their deeply held Catholic beliefs or face crippling fines and penalties for noncompliance, we will appeal this decision and seek immediate relief from the appellate court,” the Archdiocese stated. “We believe the Court erred in its reasoning and application of the law and look forward to advancing a successful appeal.”
That ruling also conflicts with a ruling earlier this month by U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan in Brooklyn, New York, who blocked the government from enforcing the mandate against two Catholic high schools as well as two Catholic health organizations.
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