Group of 200 Catholic employers sues to block HHS mandate

President Barack Obama with HHS Sec Kathleen Sebelius announce the contraceptive mandate at the White House, Jan. 12, 2012. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.

In one of the largest collective lawsuits against the federal HHS mandate, the Catholic Benefit Association, representing more than 200 Catholic employers and more than 19,000 employees nationwide, has filed a suit on the grounds that the measure compels the violation of Catholic teachings.

The association's employers are “united and committed in their defense of their first amendment right to give witness to their Catholic faith through their ministries and businesses by providing life-affirming employee health care coverage that is consistent with Catholic teaching,” the Archdiocese of Baltimore said March 12.

The benefit association's employers include Catholic dioceses, around 1,000 parishes, non-profits and Catholic-owned for-profit businesses. Its membership is open to Catholic religious congregations, Catholic medical facilities, and Catholic universities.

The association formed the Catholic Insurance Company to allow Catholic employers to exercise their faith in what health care coverage they provide to their employees. The association also arranges health provider networks to help Catholic employers provide comprehensive health care that is consistent with Catholic ethics.

The March 12 lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, asks that the court protect the association’s member employers by allowing them to opt out of the mandated coverage.

Baltimore Archbishop William L. Lori, the Archdiocese of Baltimore and the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City have also joined the lawsuit.

“We as Catholics – regardless of the corporate structure within which we work – cannot in good conscience provide employees with insurance that covers contraception, abortifacients and sterilization, which undermine the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of human life and also jeopardize the physical and mental health of those who use them in untold ways,” Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City said.

“It is my prayer that the courts will recognize that the federal government has no clear and compelling public interest that justifies burdening our free exercise of religion by requiring us to pay for conscience-violating drugs and procedures.”
 
The mandate, implemented through 2010 health care legislation known as the Affordable Care Act, requires employers to provide employees free coverage of sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause abortions. Catholic teaching rejects the drugs and procedures as immoral and rejects cooperation in their provision.

Other plaintiffs to the lawsuit include the Catholic Insurance Company, Catholic Charities of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma’s All Saints’ Catholic School, The Cathedral Foundation in Baltimore, Villa St. Francis Catholic Care Center in Kansas City, Kan. and Good Will Publishers in North Carolina.

Before Monday, there were 93 lawsuits challenging mandate. These lawsuits represent over 300 Catholic and non-Catholic plaintiffs with objections to providing the coverage.

More information about the Catholic Benefits Association is available at the website http://www.lifeaffirmingcare.com.


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