Wednesday, July 30, 2014

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Notre Dame Petitions Court for Rehearing in HHS Mandate Case

The University of Notre Dame has filed a petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals for a rehearing of its plea for an injunction against the HHS mandate in front of the entire Seventh Circuit, rather than the panel of three judges which earlier denied the plea, according to The Observer.

The petition filed by the University,which can be found online, argues that Notre Dame seeks to provide health coverage to its employees “in a manner consistent with its Catholic beliefs.” 

“Instead, under the threat of ruinous penalties, Notre Dame must sign and submit a religiously objectionable ‘self-certification’ form, and then maintain a contractual relationship with insurance companies and third party administrators that will provide abortifacients, contraceptives, sterilization, and related counseling to individuals enrolled in Notre Dame’s health plans,” states the petition. “Those products and services will be provided to Notre Dame’s students and employees through the insurance infrastructure Notre Dame is forced to maintain, thus requiring Notre Dame to offer health plans that serve as a conduit for the delivery of the objectionable coverage.”

The petition plainly states that Notre Dame “cannot take these actions without violating its religious beliefs.”

Earlier this year, the University did comply with the mandate after it failed to receive an injunction. The Sycamore Trust, an organization of alumni committed to promoting the University of Notre Dame’s Catholic identity, criticized the University’s compliance with the federal HHS mandate as “scandalous disregard of its religious beliefs” in a statement. Refusing to comply with the mandate, the University may have been subject to penalties of up to $100 per employee per day.

Dozens of other religious organizations have received preliminary injunctions against the HHS mandate while their lawsuits proceed through the courts.   

Notre Dame’s petition argues that the panel of judges which ruled against it in February “should have accepted Notre Dame’s honest and undisputed assertion that it has a religious objection to taking the actions necessary to comply with the ‘accommodation.’”

Paul Browne, Notre Dame’s vice president for public affairs and communications, was quoted in the student newspaper saying that the case was “a religious liberty issue.”

The petition argues that the panel created an “erroneous new legal standard” which lands the courts in the “untenable and unconstitutional role of arbiters of religious doctrine.”

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