The Diocese of Greensburg and St. John the Evangelist Regional Catholic School in Uniontown, Penn., along with the local Catholic Charities office, filed suit this week against the Obama administration claiming that the HHS Mandate violates the religious beliefs of the Catholic Church, the Pittsburgh Tribune reported.
Greensburg Bishop Lawrence Brandt reportedly called the HHS Mandate a “direct affront to our religious freedoms” and said that the fines associated with refusing to provide coverage of abortifacients, contraceptives, and sterilization procedures “could seriously jeopardize the existence of these ministries.”
“In addition, subsequent changes to the rules, which the government has termed ‘accommodations,' are no accommodations at all,” the bishop reportedly said.
“In essence, the mandate restricts our religious freedom to the sacristy, to freedom of worship in church only, and does not give the church the freedom to carry our faith and many of our ministries — including Catholic schools, Catholic institutions of higher education, Catholic Charities and other social service agencies and hospitals — into the public square,” he said.
The complaint reportedly states that the plaintiffs requested that the HHS grant a voluntary extension of the injunction, which had already been granted to the dioceses of Pittsburgh and Erie in court, but that request was rejected. Because of that, on top of seeking injunctive relief from the mandate, the plaintiffs are also, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, demanding that the federal government pay its legal bills for forcing it into "needless and repetitive litigation over civil rights issues already decided by this court."
Bishop Brandt reportedly said that while the U.S. bishops have supported health care access for all, conscience rights and religious freedom must be protected.
“We have no choice but to take this action in order to protect our religious freedom to act in the public square without violating the beliefs of our Catholic faith,” Bp. Brandt reportedly said. “This is not a matter of the Catholic Church's trying to force its views on the rest of the country. To the contrary, it is a matter of the federal government trying to force its views on the church.”
The case will reportedly be heard by the same judge, U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab, who granted relief to the Pittsburgh and Erie dioceses.
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