Federal judge dismisses some HHS mandate lawsuits
In a blow to religious liberty, a federal judge has dismissed a federal lawsuit in which Nebraska and six other states along with a number of other plaintiffs tried to block part of the federal health care law that requires contraception coverage.
But Emily Hardman of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty told The Cardinal Newman Society that this ruling does not affect other cases brought against the HHS mandate by the Becket Fund, with plaintiffs including Belmont Abbey College, Colorado Christian University, Ave Maria University, and EWTN. “This ruling is completely irrelevant to our cases,” said Hardman.
U.S. District Judge Warren Urbom of Lincoln dismissed the case Tuesday, saying among other reasons that the plaintiffs did not have standing to bring the action challenging the HHS mandate because it hadn’t gone into effect yet.
“Today’s decision completely disregards the federal government’s continued shell game when it comes to this rule,” Attorney General Jon Bruning told The Journal Star. “Essentially, this decision asks millions of Americans to watch and wait for their religious liberties to be violated. Obviously, we’re disappointed with the ruling, and we will consult with our co-plaintiffs to assess our next steps.”
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Co-plaintiffs include Pius X Catholic High School, Catholic Social Services, The Catholic Mutual Relief Society of America and private citizens Stacy Molai and Sister Mary Catherine, CK, according to a statement by Bruning’s office.
“This regulation forces millions of Americans to choose between following religious convictions and complying with federal law,” Bruning reportedly said in February. “This violation of the 1st Amendment is a threat to every American, regardless of religious faith. We will not stand idly by while our constitutionally-guaranteed liberties are discarded by an administration that has sworn to uphold them.”
But Judge Urbom, a Nixon appointee, sided with the U.S. Justice Department because he said the mandate hasn’t gone into effect yet so there aren’t any damages as of yet.
“Although the rule that lies at the heart of the plaintiffs’ complaint establishes a definitive, final definition of ‘religious employer,’ the ACA’s contraceptive coverage requirements are not being enforced against non-exempted religious organizations, and the rule is currently undergoing a process of amendment to accommodate these organizations,” Urbom said.”The plaintiffs face no direct and immediate harm, and one can only speculate whether the plaintiffs will ever feel any effects from the rule when the temporary enforcement safe harbor terminates. This case clearly involves ‘contingent future events that may not occur as anticipated, or indeed may not occur at all,’ … and therefore it is not ripe for review.
Updates to follow…
This article originally appeared on the website of the Cardinal Newman Society and is reprinted with permission.