NEW YORK, March 29, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – The American Civil Liberties Union targeted the nation’s Catholic bishops in court again this month, alleging the federal government had authorized the US Bishops’ Conference “to impose its religious beliefs on a vulnerable population that needs access to critical reproductive health services.”
The March 17 suit requests documents connected to a September 2015 $2 million federal grant awarded to the USCCB for services provided to human trafficking victims, with the ACLU contending the Bishops’ Conference got the grant even though the government had violated the Constitution with a previous multi-million-dollar multi-year contract awarded to the Bishops’ Conference for human trafficking victim services, because the Conference refuses to provide those it serves access to “reproductive services.”
“Denying reproductive health services, and referrals for these services, can further victimize trafficked individuals,” the lawsuit claims. “Victims of severe forms of human trafficking frequently need reproductive health care services and referrals to lead safe lives, become self-sufficient, and protect themselves and others. These services, and referrals to these services, include emergency contraception, condoms, and in some cases abortion.”
The ACLU says human trafficking victims need access to abortion and contraceptives because they are at risk for rape.
The group sued the government in 2009 on the ground that federal grants to USCCB for trafficking survivors violated the Constitution’s establishment Clause, with a federal district court ruling in favor of the ACLU in 2012. After the 2015 grant was awarded to the USCCB, the ACLU made an FOIA request in November of last year for the related documents.
As of the suit’s filing last week, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), a subdivision of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), had yet to respond, and according to the ACLU, “far exceeded the statutory and regulatory time limitations to respond.”
“We are shocked and deeply concerned to see history repeating itself with millions of taxpayer dollars funneled into the hands of a religious group that has a long history of refusing critical health care services to the most vulnerable people in their care,” ACLU Senior Staff Attorney Brigitte Amiri said in a statement. “The court has ruled that the federal government cannot give federal funds to those who impose their religious beliefs on others by withholding critical healthcare to those who have been through unspeakable horrors. The public has a right to know what’s going on.”
The ACLU also charged the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops with having “routinely denied survivors of human trafficking access to critical health care because of its religious beliefs.”
The civil liberties group went on in its statement to say the federal government permits the USCCB “to harm vulnerable populations” such as refugees and illegal immigrant minors, through its refusal to provide access to abortion and contraception, and it condemned the USCCB for its Ethical and Religious Directives barring Catholic hospitals from performing abortion and sterilization.
“These hospitals also receive federal funding and are subject to government oversight,” the group stated. “Nearly one in nine hospital beds in the country is in a Catholic facility, and as U.S. hospitals become increasingly affiliated with religious organizations, the health of American women is threatened by the refusal to provide medically appropriate and, often times, lifesaving services.”
This latest lawsuit is one in a series from the ACLU either indirectly or overtly taking aim at the U.S. Catholic Church and Catholic principles.
The ACLU sued the federal government in April of last year seeking release of documents related to government contracts with the agencies providing services to unaccompanied minors and women, specifically citing the USCCB as violating the terms of its government contract and using religious freedom as a defense for refusing to provide access to contraception abortifacients and abortion.
The ACLU brought a lawsuit against the US Bishops’ Conference back in 2013 alleging that the USCCB’s Ethical and Religious Directives (ERD’s) maintaining Catholic principles in Catholic hospitals equate to medical negligence.
In 2014 the ACLU filed an amicus curiae brief in Wyoming in support of the HHS mandate forcing Catholic organizations to provide contraceptives, abortifiacients and sterilization to employees.
In January 2015 the ACLU urged a Michigan state regulatory board in to force a Catholic hospital system to perform sterilizations.