The Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta, Georgia and the Catholic Diocese of Savannah have been granted a permanent injunction barring the federal government from enforcing the HHS birth control mandate against them. [Catholic Culture] In Oklahoma, 200 Catholic employers filed a suit against the federal government seeking the same kind of protection. The Catholic Benefits Association wants to offer health insurance that does not include coverage for contraceptives. [Associated Press] On 25 March, the United States Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius, two cases challenging the HHS mandate. [The Foundry]
As a result of continuing concerns about the HHS preventive service mandate, the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and over 100 prominent national religious leaders and scholars have signed an open letter to the Obama administration entitled Standing Together for Religious Freedom. The letter calls on the Administration and Congress to respect conscience rights and religious freedom.
Nonetheless, Georgetown University, a Catholic institution, has announced that it considers the Obama administration’s revised contraceptive mandate acceptable. The president of Georgetown stated that the new regulation provides “the opportunity to reconcile our religious identity and our commitment to providing access to affordable healthcare.” Similarly, the Catholic Health Care Association states that it is satisfied that its members will not have to “contract, provide, pay or refer for contraceptive coverage.” The Association includes over 600 hospitals and 1400 other health facilities in every American state and in Washington, D.C. [NCR]
A federal court granted a preliminary injunction to Hobby Lobby. The business is operated by its owners in accordance with their Christian convictions. The Green family does not object to contraception, but rejects the IUD and morning-after pill because of concern about embryocidal effects. The court ruled that the injunction was warranted because of “substantial public interest in ensuring that no individual or corporation has their legs cut out from under them while these difficult issues are resolved.” [Becket Fund] In contrast, a federal appeals court has rejected the appeal of Mennonite owners of Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation against a lower court ruling that held they must comply with the regulation. In a 2- 1 decision, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a corporation cannot be said to share an owner’s religious convictions. [Lancasteronline]