Catholic Church Sues Obama Administration Over Contraceptive Provisions in the Health Care Law

The Obama Administration is facing another challenge to the national health care law. With over half of the states opposing the law in the federal courts, including the pending case before the Supreme Court, the University of Notre Dame, the Archdiocese of New York and 41 other Roman Catholic institutions have sued over the requirement that employers cover contraception in workers’ health plans.

Section 2713 of the Public Health Service Act, enacted by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Public Law 111-148) provides:

“A group health plan and a health insurance issuer offering group or individual health insurance coverage shall, at a minimum provide coverage for and shall not impose any cost sharing requirements for— . . . (4) with respect to women, such additional preventive care and screenings . . . as provided for in comprehensive guidelines supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration . . . .”

The referenced regulations then require “All Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity.”

Those provisions, the plaintiffs argue, conflict with deeply held religious beliefs and practices.

The lawsuit raises an interesting question of where to draw the line between religious services and more secular activities by religious institutions. While a church is protected by the free exercise clause, it is also part of a large non-for-profit corporation. In the case of the Catholic Church it is a major employer and the operator of a host of different activities.

The lawsuit by Notre Dame states that “[t]he government…cannot justify its decision to force Notre Dame to provide, pay for, and/or facilitate access to these services in violation of its sincerely held religious beliefs. If the government can force religious institutions to violate their beliefs in such a manner, there is no apparent limit to the government’s power.” That is far from evident. Existing case law would in my view support the Administration in mandating a generally applicable rule on this kind. The courts have been admittedly reluctant to draw lines between protected religious activities and non-protected activities of religious institutions. However, the slippery slope argument may go the other way: if the government cannot require this type of insurance coverage what would such a holding mean for the future of regulations in the health care and other areas. The Senate previously split 51-48 on getting rid of the contraception requirement and the lawsuit is likely to result in further erosion of support for Obama among Catholics.

One of the most difficult hurdles for the plaintiffs is the decision in Employment Division v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990), where the Supreme Court ruled that a state could deny unemployment benefits to a person terminated for using of peyote. That decision was written by one of the justices that the Plaintiffs are likely most counting on in an eventual argument before the Supreme Court — Justice Scalia. Scalia upheld the law as a “neutral law of general applicability.” Notably, he relied on the very inverse slippery slope argument above: “To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself.” The Court drew the distinction between laws prohibiting physical acts of worship and such neutral rules. The case does not rule out a possible ruling in favor of these plaintiffs, but it (and other cases) give the advantage to the government.

Clearly, the plaintiffs have the advantage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”), which imposes a heavy burden on the government when they can show that a regulation substantially burdens their exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability. However, there remains the question of substantial burden and the possibility that the government can show a compelling interest in light of the slippery slope danger. There are thousands of different religious organizations in this country with countless religious practices and values that might become the basis for claimed exceptions. Such a ruling would have sweeping implications for state and federal regulations across the country.

Here is a copy of the complaint: complaint-final

Source: Wall Street Journal

68 thoughts on “Catholic Church Sues Obama Administration Over Contraceptive Provisions in the Health Care Law”

  1. Im not angry, I am soooo excited that Obama is so stupid to challenge the catholic church. He is so finished! DEMOCRAT should pack up and move to the middle east, but not Israel cuz they don’t rate the promise land!

  2. A Call to Awaken the Bishops’ Conscience
    By Charles P. Pierce
    May 30, 2012

    This time, The Clan Of The Red Beanie means business. Apparently, in addition to filing nuisance suits around the country, the various clerical errors, who have spent the past decade comfortably free of real punishment for the various felonies against children that they aided and abetted, are now styling themselves as victims, as prisoners of conscience, because the Affordable Care Act mandates that birth control for their Presbyterian charwomen be covered by their health-insurance plans. I link to the Clan’s propaganda site just to give you a taste of the hilarious posturing and ahistorical yahooism attending this latest crusade.

    (You may also notice that Thomas More is back in our politics again. He last made his appearance back during the extended Clinton impeachment kabuki, when several Republican congresscritters cited his words — or, more accurately, cited the words that playwright Robert Bolt put in More’s mouth in A Man For All Seasons regarding the rule of law — in defense of their relentless pursuit of the presidential penis. Apparently, the bishops believe that an insurance company’s being required to cover the Pill is roughly the same offense against conscience as More suffered, and being made party to it is roughly the same punishment as being beheaded. And, anyway, More was a bit of an offender against freedom of conscience his own self, a very enthusiastic fan of heretic flambe. Here are some Catholics arguing about him. Don’t blame me. I don’t know these people.)

    Perhaps the most obviously risible comparison being drawn by the Clan is the one in which they line themselves up as the heirs to Dr. King, quoting the Letter From The Birmingham Jail and all. (‘T’were up to me, several of them currently would be enjoying a closer parallel to that letter, if you get my drift, and I think you do.) “During the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, Americans shone the light of the Gospel on a dark history of slavery, segregation, and racial bigotry,” the Catholic bishops say in their bulletin insert. “The civil rights movement was an essentially religious movement, a call to awaken consciences.”

    Oh, let us count the ways, shall we? The Civil Rights Movement was an exercise of political pressure that used for its philosophical underpinnings certain religious themes and rhetoric. (And “the light of the Gospels”? Well, partly, but, in his strategy of nonviolent resistance, which was the actual work of the movement, King was a student of Gandhi, who liked Christ, but didn’t trust Christians.) It was dedicated to gaining for African Americans the rights that they already were promised as American citizens, and guaranteed by the Constitution, rights that had been systematically curtailed and eliminated by the secular law. The movement sought to restore rights that already existed, to give back that which has been stolen. This current exercise is a demand by a certain religious institutions to have its private theological beliefs written into an exemption in the secular law, to grant the Roman Catholic hierarchy special rights under that secular law. (Native tribes tried this with peyote, which has been a sacrament to them for longer than bread and wine has been to Christianity, and they got nowhere.) The Church is seeking the right to deny people certain goods and services, as well as the protection of the secular law, under private theological prohibitions, and to do so whether or not the people in question actually are members of the church at all. The bishops want the freedom of conscience necessary to discriminate against their employees of other faiths. If you are that Presbyterian charwoman, you must abandon what your freely developed conscience tells you about birth control and adhere to the teachings of the Roman Catholicism, or you must pay for the Pill yourself, or find another job. The bishops are not merely claiming their own right to conscience here, but a right to dictate to other people what their consciences should abide. This is the equivalent of, in 1965, a claque of Baptists demanding their right not to serve black people in restaurants because of their beliefs in the Biblical basis for white supremacy. This is a lot of things, most of them bad, but it has absolutely nothing to do with what Dr. King was about.

    1. HATE HATE HATE HATE. This whole thing is a distraction, a red herring. Keep drinking the Kool aid and enforce your secular humanism on everyone else. Throw Predjudice in there to get people’s attention put it together in the format your communist professor taught you. Catholics educate Millions in the united states on their own dime and do a much better job then the govt. Unlike the secular humanism theocracy all religious views are welcome in Catholic schools albeit Catholicism is taught primarily in HS all major religions are taught. BTW the largest catholic church in the world is in Nigeria. The Catholic church aids millions of people everyday in this country it is jealousy that ire’s your ilk and brings up isolated happening from the past in an attempt to smear a great institution. However you are grasping at straws and all but your devoted lock step followers see it for what it is. A distraction and a smear campaign

  3. Ruben sounds more like an OWS guy I dont believe his comments they seem as contrived as Tawana Brawley. In fact best to get off this rant as I can see the PC enforcers will soon be on the way to put out the fire started most likely by one of their own.

  4. Ruben,

    “I vote republican all day all the way!” Therein lies the problem…

    (You seem angry…)

  5. Barrack obama is a terrorist!oSo awesome
    E when he gets voted out of office! I’m not rich, but I vote republican all day all the way! Democrats are idiots! Barrack obama is garbage!

  6. This is a most one sided anti-catholic rag. The blind following of this media would give the Polit Bureau a run for its money. Govt has become a religion that wants to eliminate its competition. Im sure Stalin is looking up and smiling.

  7. Off Topic:

    Cardinal ordered silence on priests accused of abuse
    Monsignor tells of dealing with ‘sick individuals’
    By Maryclaire Dale | ASSOCIATED PRESS
    MAY 24, 2012

    PHILADELPHIA – A Roman Catholic church official conceded that a 1994 list he compiled of 35 priests suspected of sexually abusing children in the Philadelphia archdiocese included some “pretty sick individuals.’’

    Monsignor William Lynn took the stand in his own defense Wednesday in a groundbreaking child-endangerment and conspiracy case. Prosecutors blame Lynn for helping keep those priests and many more in ministry, where they had access to countless children.

    Lynn, 61, is the first Roman Catholic church official in the United States charged with a crime for his handling of complaints that priests were molesting children. Prosecutors spent 10 years investigating the Philadelphia Archdiocese before bringing charges against Lynn, the point person for priest assignments as secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004. No other church official in Philadelphia was charged.

    Lynn testified that the head of the archdiocese forbade staff from telling accusers their alleged abuser had other victims. And he said the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua would not let parishes announce the real reason an accused priest was being removed. Parishioners were often told their priest had health problems when he left for sex-offender treatment, according to testimony over the past nine weeks.

  8. Correction to my previous post.I trnasposed some words. So please spare us the old excuse that the other guys are worse, when WE do what they do on a FAR greater scale.

  9. Michael- I’m not a thug for hire. Or a Rambo. The only reason I brought up the fact that I have fought Taliban was to acknowledge that I’m hardly the most objective person on the planet. I was actually mainly a field tech in support of spec ops, though I ended up in more than my share of engagements. And guess what? Not one of my bullets, or any bullet from any unit I was ever attached to, was ever targeted at women and children, and I took extreme care, even at risk to myself and other members of my unit, to keep non combatants out of harm’s way. Not once in four years of combat operations did I or any member of my unit plant a bomb at a school, or throw acid on women’s faces, or force lawyers to wear muzzles. (Not claiming all troops are saints- god knows they aren’t, and a few of them are downright sick). And I don’t hate the Taliban for their skin color, or religion, only their actions. You’re attributing motives I never had. In fact, I’ve argued against the invasions from the get-go, of both Afghanistan and Iraq, as overly broad responses to the actions of a few. However, it was the Taliban who allowed and supported Bin Laden’s operation from their country. It was the Taliban who espoused a version of asymmetrical warfare that includes the targeting of women for death and mutilation, of bombs for children, of murdering their own citizens simply to make a point. If we want to take a historical perspective- Vietnam, for example- the actions of the North Vietnamese were far, far more horrific than anything the US did. It’s not a matter of liking the violence or the killing for most people- it’s a matter of being a fucked up kid in a fucked up world, following fucked up orders. The psyche develops the hateful mentality as a defense mechanism against insanity. You say “when they come into your home and attack you for being of military age.” So the only requirement for hate is actions taken directly against you? Or perhaps the only requirement for hate is that if I’m not the one being fitted for a hajib, I have no reason to despise someone who does perpetrate such acts? So you are someone who would watch a child being murdered and do nothing? Not even have an emotion regarding those acts? The old saw, “The only thing needed for evil to prosper is for good people to do nothing” would seem to come into play here.

    rafflaw compares the catholic church with the Taliban. And yes, the catholic church has plenty of history of abuse, of murder, and of violence. And yes, priests were abusing children and then covering it up. But that’s a fraction of the abuses being perpetrated by the Taliban daily. Right now. Not in the distant past. Not in the middle ages. Right now. Every, single, bloody, day. I’m not trying to condone the abuses by the priests in the catholic church, I’m simply saying that comparison to the Taliban is the same thing as a R. calling Obama a Communist- pure rhetoric, meaningless and empty. I’m simply trying to contrast it with a group where violence is the norm, not the exception, while rafflaw was simply trying to inflame opinion with insubstantial arguments. And rafflaw is much smarter than that, capable of way more thought and care than that. And the rest of the history of the catholic church is exactly that- mainly history. They’re not exactly relevant anymore. I don’t give two hoots what the pope says or doesn’t say regarding any subject. So its only relevancy is as a target and punching bag of politics.And as far as them forcing their views on us- we are still a land that allows freedom of religion, right? We do still have certain freedoms, like, telling the priests where they can shove their ideas, without worrying about a squad of mental hygiene police busting down our doors. And I’ve already made plain my ideas regarding the Church and the acceptance of public funds. If you don’t like working for them, don’t. Or stage a protest. Or unionize. Or quit. If they are the only medical employer in your area, why don’t you just go ahead and shut them down? Except that your area now has no medical coverage, of course. Freedom has a price, and choices have consequences. If they’re so evil, why the bloody blue blazes do they build these hospitals in the first place? If you can’t stomach the way they treat you as an employer, do whatever the law allows, without wadding up the Constitution.

    Now as to calling rafflaw too intelligent to comment- I simply said he was too intelligent to make such broad comparisons for pure rhetoric purposes, not that he shouldn’t comment at all. I rather like his comments, when he’s not after being so hateful.

    1. To CLH, while I agree with many of your points, I have to take issue with your comments about the VIetnamese liberation forces. It is true that both sides were hardly saints in all things, the fact is that as President Eisenhower admitted, if a free election were held, Ho Chi Mihn would have won with around 80% of the vote. In such a situation where nearly the entire country is for liberation, the Vietnamese side did not have to use mass terror as a weapon as the US side did. In fact, the US acknowledged this fact by a number of measures such as the free fire zones which are in fact considered a WAR CRIME! Then the response to the Maoist dictum that the guerillas are like fish in water was to eliminate the water by any means. I remember talking with some of my fellow GIs who had been in Vietnam and they loved what the ROK troops did. They simply went out and did many Mai Lias in killing all of the people in a hostile village. They thought that was just fine. I recall one of the favorite slogans was, Kill them all and let God sort them out. Go to any Vietnam veteran gathering, and you can buy that one on some flag or poster.

      While the US did not follow that example in all cases, that is what has to be done if the whole population hates the foreign occupier. The fact is that the Vietnamese did punish the collaborators with death which is nothing more than what most people in most countries do to such traitors. If the US had caught Benedict Arnold, he would have been hung. In the South of the US in our Revolution, the fighting devolved into civil war, which is the most UNCIVIL kind of conflict that exists. So please spare us the old excuse that the other guys are worse when they do what we do on a FAR greater scale.

      What is being done by the US in Afghanistan is hardly like Vietnam at all since the leaders are not the former colonial rulers nor is there a large class of people who profited from that. The Taliban had and has a very narrow popular base compared with Vietnam. So they DO have to use mass terror to try and reimpose their will. The suicide bombing that murdered the leader of the Northern Alliance, Daoud, just a couple of days before 9/11, showed that the Taliban knew about 9/11 and took steps to counter a US response. To say that the Taliban had any intention of turning over Bin Laden is delusional.

  10. Nice joke. Problem is from my research hell is not a place. Heaven is Jesus in you .Meaning hell, and heaven are not a place. Hell is Gods light seen to the human that kills or hates not being like Jesus is like it was fire. KJV, 1 John 1;5This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light. Heb; 12:29;For our God is a consuming fire. James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, Hell is the face of God Moses could not look into or become ashes. That is why the redeemed are changed in a twinkling of an eye when Jesus comes back.

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