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Justice Alito protects Catholic dioceses and Geneva College from HHS mandate—for now

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PITTSBURGH, PA, April 17, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Supreme Court has given the government until Monday to explain why an injunction protecting three religious institutions from the HHS mandate should be lifted.

In a brief order, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito allowed two lower court's injunctions to be kept in place, despite a ruling from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. Justice Alito, who oversees the Third Circuit Court, was asked by Geneva College and the Roman Catholic Dioceses of Pittsburgh and Erie to prevent the federal mandate from taking effect as they appeal the Third Circuit's ruling.

The mandate requires most employers to provide insurance coverage for contraception, abortion-inducing drugs, and sterilization. It has been challenged on the basis that it violates religious liberty. Geneva College and the two Pennsylvania dioceses argue that a modification to the mandate that allows them to sign paperwork putting the onus of coverage on insurance companies would still require them to participate in an immoral process.

“We are grateful that Justice Alito has stayed the order of the Third Circuit, which would have jeopardized the future of Catholic Charities of Pittsburgh with heavy fines for refusing to facilitate certain government mandates which the Catholic Church deems immoral,” said Bishop David Zubik of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. “This stay is a welcome but interim step in pursuit of the religious freedom that our laws and Constitution have guaranteed to all Americans."

Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Matt Bowman, whose organization represents Geneva College, told LifeSiteNews that the government would have to effectively make two arguments to lift the injunction. First, it would have to argue that it should win its case against Geneva and the dioceses, and then state that it is critical that the Obama administration's health care mandate is implemented before the case is decided in court.

The abortifacient, contraception, and sterilization mandate has been controversial for Catholic institutions since its inception more than three years ago. Last summer, the Supreme Court ruled that the mandate did not apply to closely held corporations. While it has not ruled on the merits of religious non-profits who oppose the mandate, justices on the Court have upheld injunctions for religious-based non-profits.

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Alito was able to make this decision independent of the rest of the Court, because the order only applies to the injunction – which was put in place by a lower judge in Pittsburgh, but removed by the Third Circuit Court this week. The Third Circuit Court's decision against Geneva and the dioceses is upheld, though all three plaintiffs are appealing that decision.

Alito's order reads in full:

UPON CONSIDERATION of the application of counsel for the applicants, IT IS ORDERED that the mandate of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, case Nos. 14-1376 & 14-1377, issued April 15, 2015, is hereby recalled and stayed pending receipt of a response, due on or before April 20, 2015, and further order of the undersigned or of the Court.

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