The Roman Catholic dioceses of Springfield and Joliet have joined 41 other religious institutions filing simultaneous lawsuits that challenge the Obama administration’s mandate that many religious employers have their health insurance cover the cost of
Catholic Charities in both dioceses also filed simultaneous lawsuits in U.S. District Court on Monday.
At issue is a requirement that employers provide insurance plans that include contraception for women at no cost. Under the rules proposed last year, Catholic schools, charities and hospitals would not be exempt from providing care that includes FDA-approved contraception and sterilization procedures.
Bob Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, said the
"We've talked to the administration about our concerns and tried to persuade them to amend the regulation that they proposed. It doesn't seem like they're willing to do that," Gilligan said. "We're engaged in the executive branch, legislative branch and now the judicial branch."
The 12 lawsuits filed jointly Monday accuse the U.S. Departments of
"This lawsuit is about an unprecedented attack by the federal government on one of America's most cherished freedoms: the freedom to practice one's religion without government interference," said Springfield Bishop Thomas Paprocki, a trained lawyer and former auxiliary bishop in Chicago.
In February, the Obama administration offered a compromise that required insurance companies to cover the cost of any care, not religious employers. But many of the plaintiffs in the suits filed Monday argue that accommodation doesn't help because they self-insure. The government is still finalizing a regulation for self-insured groups.
Richard Garnett, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, also one of the 43 institutions to sue, said the lawsuits aren't intended to challenge the goals of the Affordable Care Act or to limit employees' access to the drugs or procedures.
"They are not asking the courts to endorse the plaintiffs' religious views, only to respect and accommodate them," Garnett said in a statement. "Religious institutions are not seeking to control what their employees buy, use, or do in private; they are trying to avoid being conscripted by the government into acting in a way that would be inconsistent with their character, mission, and values."
The Rev. John Jenkins, president of Notre Dame, also said the lawsuit was not a war on a woman's right to use contraception.
"Many of our faculty, staff and students -- both Catholic and non-Catholic -- have made conscientious decisions to use contraceptives," Jenkins said. "As we assert the right to follow our conscience, we respect their right to follow theirs. And we believe that, if the Government wishes to provide such services, means are available that do not compel religious organizations to serve as its agents."