Georgia Catholic organizations win permanent exclusion from Obamacare birth control mandate
ATLANTA, GA, March 28, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A federal judge has blocked the Obama administration from enforcing its controversial contraception mandate against Roman Catholic-affiliated organizations in the Archdiocese of Atlanta and the Diocese of Savannah.
U.S. District Judge William Duffey ruled Wednesday that the federal government cannot force Catholic schools, hospitals or charities to cover sterilizations, contraceptives or abortion-causing drugs in their health plans, as Obamacare requires of all employers, because to do so would violate their religious freedoms. The Catholic Church teaches that artificial contraception of any kind is gravely sinful.
Previously, the government had offered a ‘compromise’ arrangement in which churches would be exempt from the requirement, but not religiously affiliated groups like Catholic schools and hospitals that employ and serve people outside the faith. Such groups would instead have the option of passing the costs of the offending procedures and medications on to the insurance company by signing a “self-certification form” outlining their religious objections and authorizing the insurer to pay the costs instead.
But numerous Catholic and other religious organizations have objected to the “compromise” policy, arguing that signing a paper authorizing insurance companies to provide drugs and procedures they see as immoral is just as wrong as paying for those things themselves. Among them are Wednesday’s victors: Catholic Education of North Georgia, Inc., which operates five Catholic schools, and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
"In this case, [Catholic Education of North Georgia] and Catholic Charities are compelled by the final rules to provide a self-certification form to their [third-party administrator]," Judge Duffey wrote in issuing his injunction. “The rules also require the plaintiffs to state their objection to the services and products that the ACA mandates, and then require the plaintiffs to take affirmative action that enables a third party to provide to the plaintiffs' employees the very services to which plaintiffs have a sincerely held religious objection.”
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Noting that the fines for failure to comply with the mandate can run into the thousands of dollars per employee per year, Duffey added that the Obama administration has "place[d] substantial pressure on Catholic Charities and [Catholic Education of North Georgia] to either compromise their religious beliefs or suffer the onerous economic consequence of adhering to what they believe."
“The manner in which the self-certification form is designed forces the plaintiffs to take action in direct contradiction to what they believe,” Duffey stated. “The purpose and effect of the self-certification form is to enable the provision of contraceptive coverage. … It is a government imposed device that pressures the plaintiffs into facilitating the contraceptive coverage to which they have sincerely held religious objections."
The Georgia case is just one of nearly 100 similar cases challenging the contraceptive mandate. The most famous of these is Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., which was argued this week before the United States Supreme Court.