Catholics Launch Legal War Against ACA
American Catholics signaled this week that they are not going to wait for the Supreme Court ruling expected later this month to challenge the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in court.
On Monday, a coalition of religious groups filed lawsuits against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on the grounds that provisions of the ACA going into effect in August violate their constitutionally protected beliefs.
Among the institutions joining the lawsuit are Catholic Charities, Catholic University of America, and The Consortium of Catholic Academies -- all of which filed together with the Archdiocese of Washington in U.S. District Court in Washington, DC. The lawsuit challenges provisions of the ACA that the plaintiffs say require "religious organizations to provide coverage for drugs and procedures in direct conflict with their religious beliefs."
The action in Washington was mirrored across the country Monday as a total of 43 Catholic institutions simultaneously filed 12 lawsuits against the ACA. Timothy Cardinal Nolan, head of the Catholic Church in New York, explained the timing of the lawsuits in a statement released Monday:
We have tried negotiation with the administration and legislation with the Congress, and we'll keep at it, but there's still no fix. Time is running out, and our valuable ministries and fundamental rights hang in the balance, so we have to resort to the courts now.
Notre Dame University was another one of the Catholic entities filing suit against the ACA. Under a compromise worked out with the Obama administration, the Catholic Church would not have to provide the offending services to church employees. But they would still have to provide birth control and other services to employees of Catholic universities, Catholic hospitals, Catholic schools and charities affiliated with the church.
The Catholic Church signaled Monday the compromise with HHS does not go far enough. Like many provisions of the ACA, the birth control requirements are phased in gradually. The compromise language, which became law February 15, will go into effect starting in August. For the Catholic Church, time is running out to challenge the ACA or be found in violation of it.
In a written statement concerning the lawsuits, Fr. John Jenkins, Notre Dame president, said:
We do not seek to impose our religious beliefs on others. We simply ask that the government not impose its values on the university when those values conflict with our religious teachings.
Source: "Catholic University, Archdiocese Of Washington Sue HHS Over Health Insurance Mandate," The Huffington Post, May 21, 2012.
Source: "Notre Dame sues Obama administration over birth control mandate," ABC News, May 21, 2012.
Image courtesy of Paul J Everett used under its Creative Commons license.
Steve O'Keefe is a freelance writer, author and book editor.