Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who leads the Archdiocese of New York (Associated Press/Photo by Chris Hondros)
A federal district judge ruled for the first time Wednesday that religious organizations do have standing to sue the federal government over the health insurance law's contraceptive mandate.
Federal District Judge Brian Cogan of Brooklyn, N.Y., ruled that the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, Catholic Health Services of Long Island, and ArchCare could move forward with their lawsuit against the Obama administration over the mandate, which would require the groups to provide coverage of abortifacients, contraceptives, and sterilization for their thousands of employees.
The ruling contrasts with every other district-level ruling on the mandate so far in regard to religious nonprofit groups. Other courts have said religious groups like Wheaton College cannot sue now because they are under a yearlong safe harbor from the mandate and the federal government might amend the mandate before it applies to these groups.
Almost a year ago, the Department of Health and Human Services issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rule Making (ANPRM) that posed some ideas for accommodating religious objections to the contraceptive mandate. That document has remained in the "idea" phase, but it has been enough to convince courts to dismiss religious nonprofit group's lawsuits against the mandate for now.
Judge Cogan acknowledged that his ruling contradicted other courts but said the Catholic groups concerned in the lawsuit face immediate harm, even under the safe harbor. He ruled that their lawsuit should move forward, denying the federal government's motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
Cogan did dismiss the claims of two of the five Catholic plaintiffs, saying the two dismissed groups had health insurance plans that were "grandfathered" and thus technically exempt from the contraceptive mandate, but the three other groups face a "speeding train" coming toward them in the mandate.
"The law as it currently written requires that, beginning Jan. 1, 2014, plaintiffs must either pay onerous fines or provide contraceptive coverage in violation of their beliefs," he wrote. "It is not a non-final proposed policy; it is a final rule."
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SOURCE: WORLD Magazine