The Catholic University of America (CUA) today vowed to appeal a ruling by a D.C. federal judge that the HHS mandate does not impose a substantial burden on its religious freedom, CUA spokesman Victor Nakas told The Cardinal Newman Society today.
The mandate requires that the University provide insurance coverage that pays for access to contraceptives, abortifacients and sterilization procedures. It is scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2014.
CUA had signed on as co-plaintiffs along with the Archdiocese of Washington D.C. and Thomas Aquinas College. CUA and Thomas Aquinas are both recommended in the Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College.
District Court Judge Amy Jackson, an Obama appointee, granted Thomas Aquinas College an exemption from the mandate, because the College self-insures. She wrote:
In the case of a self-insured entity like Thomas Aquinas, the newly enacted regulations fall short of the mark. Since the accommodation imposes a duty upon the religious organization to contract with a willing third-party administrator that will arrange for the payments for contraceptives, they compel the organization to take affirmative steps – to do something – that is in conflict with the tenets of its faith. And therefore, defendants are enjoined from enforcing the mandate against Thomas Aquinas College.
But Judge Jackson ruled that the mandate does not impose a substantial burden on CUA’s religious liberty, because CUA’s health plan is subject to the Obama administration’s “accommodation” for religious nonprofits, which still requires the coverage but assigns the cost and responsibility to the insurance company to provide it to a customer’s employees.
According to court documents, Jackson wrote, “through its self-certification, the religious organization declares its intention to step out of the process. That cannot be accurately characterized as an act that ‘facilitates’ the employees’ access to the services.”
The contraceptive mandate does not “prohibit” Catholic University from covering its students or “force” it to provide a student healthcare plan that includes coverage for contraceptive services. The accommodation effectively severs the tie between the University’s healthcare plan and the provision of that coverage once the self-certification form is filed.
Jackson also denied relief to the Archdiocese of Washington, which also will appeal the court’s decision.
Thomas Aquinas College President Dr. Michael McLean said in a press release:
While we are delighted with Judge Jackson’s ruling concerning Thomas Aquinas College in this matter, we deeply regret that our co-plaintiffs did not receive similar rulings. We stand with the Archbishop of Washington, D.C., The Catholic University of America, and all our co-plaintiffs, and we pledge our prayers that they, too, will be successful in securing their religious liberties.
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