The Catholic Dioceses of Pittsburgh and Erie, along with several nonprofit groups, have won a preliminary injunction against implementing the HHS mandate. U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab granted an injunction in favor of these organizations.
The injunction allows them to continue to offer insurance that doesn’t include contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs while litigation continues. Without the injunction, the insurance administrators for the organizations — though not the dioceses themselves — would have had to start providing the coverage Jan. 1.
The bishops from both dioceses testified:
…Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh and Bishop Lawrence Persico of Erie argued that the contraception mandate violated the free exercise of Catholic non-profits guaranteed under the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops until his three-year term ended earlier this month, provided videotaped testimony that echoed the bishops’ allegation that the federal law wrongly distinguished between religious worship and service to the needy, and thus imposed an excessive burden on non-exempted Catholic agencies. Those charities are required to comply with a government ‘accommodation’ designed to provide co-pay free contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs to employees through a third-party entity.
The judge, in his decision, wrote:
…he ‘is constrained to understand why religious employers such as Catholic Charities and Prince of Peace Center — which were born from the same religious faith, and premised upon the same religious tenets and principles, and operate as extensions and embodiments of the Church, but are not subsidiaries of a parent corporation — would not be treated the same as the Church itself with respect to the free exercise of that religion.'”
He furthered stated:
…the ‘Diocese of Erie, through its supported social services organizations, provides aid to approximately 56,000 people per year, including many who would otherwise not receive necessary food, shelter, and other services.’
But those services could be endangered by the penalties that would be imposed on religious employers that refused to comply with the federal law. ‘[F]ines related to the contraceptive mandate will compel Plaintiff nonprofit, religious affiliated/related organizations to limit services or close,’ said the decision.
Matt Bowman, legal counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, spoke to the National Catholic Register regarding this key decision:
This ruling is important because it shows that the federal government is not allowed to compromise the conscience of religious organizations…The bureaucrats implementing Obamacare have no business deciding what faith means and how it should be exercised by religious groups,’ he said. ‘That is what the president tried to do in his alleged ‘accommodation’ regulation.'”