1. Religion & Spirituality
Scott P. Richert

The Contraception Mandate: The Church Fights Back

By May 22, 2012

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On May 21, 2012, 43 Catholic organizations in the United States filed lawsuits against the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Treasury, asking various federal courts to "Enter an order vacating the U.S. Government Mandate" that forces religious institutions to violate their beliefs by providing insurance coverage for artificial contraception. The plaintiffs include 14 dioceses and archdioceses and the Michigan Catholic Conference, which represents all 7 dioceses in the state of Michigan, 4 Catholic universities, several Catholic schools, and a number of official Catholic charities and healthcare organizations.

Framing the lawsuit in terms of religious freedom, the Catholic organizations ask the courts to rule that the Obama administration's contraception mandate violates both the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, as well as federal government's own rules on how changes to the law are to be made.

The lawsuit, among other things, points out that the administration's supposed exemption for religious organizations still forces many explicitly religious institutions, such as those that self-insure, to provide contraceptive coverage. It exposes the administration's February 10, 2012, "compromise" as a mere shell game (as I wrote at the time). It makes it clear that Kathleen Sebelius, the nominally Catholic secretary of Health and Human Services, has continued to advocate her radical pro-abortion views while in office, declaring, for instance, at a National Abortion Rights Action League Fundraiser in October 2011 that "we are at war" with those who regard abortion and artificial contraception as immoral.

The coordinated effort, supported by many other Catholic organizations and Catholic bishops in the United States (including the newly installed bishop of Rockford, Illinois, David Malloy), spells trouble not only for the Obama administration's contraception mandate but for the President's reelection campaign. Barack Obama would not have been elected in 2008 without significant Catholic support, but this lawsuit will force Catholics who supported him to come to grips with the fact that not only did he violate his own promise (in his 2009 commencement address at Notre Dame) to (in the words of an Our Sunday Visitor editorial) "respect freedom of religious conscience in the health care debate," he and his administration have also deliberately targeted the Catholic Church.

The latter is proved (as the lawsuit points out) by the fact that the administration had other ways in which it could have achieved its stated goal of free contraceptive coverage for women, including the "expansion of its existing network of family planning clinics funded by HHS." By placing the burden on Catholic organizations instead, the administration has placed itself in the position of dictating what the Catholic Church and other religious organizations can and cannot believe.

The administration's counterattack will start immediately; expect to see claims that the Catholic organizations that filed the lawsuit do not care about the health of women. But attempting to redefine the issue, to make it one of women's health and not one of religious freedom, is a losing battle. Other non-Catholic religious organizations are beginning to understand what is at stake here: Nothing less than the freedom to exercise one's religion.

If the contraception mandate is allowed to stand, all religious believers in the United States, no matter what their churches teach about contraception, will lose.

More on the Contraception Mandate:

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May 22, 2012 at 12:43 pm
(1) Judith says:

Well, it is not as though the Obama administration is REQUIRING the use of contraception…. have we really lost such confidence in our fellows within the church to make a decision based on their morals, faith, teachings?

May 22, 2012 at 12:54 pm
(2) matt says:

you are not required to use it.
You are required to PAY for it.

May 22, 2012 at 12:55 pm
(3) jim in colorado says:

I am a cradle Catholic of 63 years and never been so proud to be a Catholic as I am now. May all who claim the Name of Christ be willing to stand tall and speak their mind on this issue. This nation has coexisted with the Catholic church and all that she teaches and believes until this current administration picked this fight. Abortion is flat out murder of the innocent and we must not, under penalty of our own sin, fail to speak this fact loud and clear. In no way can we give an inch, in this battle between Life and death.” Not be might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, sayeth the Lord.”

May 22, 2012 at 1:01 pm
(4) matt says:

you are not required to use it.
You will be required to PAY for it.
Would you hand these out in your front yard?

You are effectively endorsing this activity.

May 22, 2012 at 1:11 pm
(5) Tom Piatak says:

An excellent analysis of the issues.

May 22, 2012 at 1:23 pm
(6) Bill says:

I guess you’re free, Judith, to do pretty much as you wish, even if I might strongly disagree with your decision. Just don’t force me to pay for it.

May 22, 2012 at 1:32 pm
(7) Tom Piatak says:

An excellent analysis of the issue.

May 22, 2012 at 2:00 pm
(8) Emily says:

It has nothing to do with controlling what other people of any faith (or no faith) background do. It has to do with forcing me to pay for someone else to violate my beliefs.

For example, I did not pull the trigger and kill the gas station cashier for the cash in the register. BUT I did take the person who did to the gun shop and gave them the money to by the gun. Knowing that he was going to rob a store. Does that make me any less guilty? Would the police not charge me? Would the victims family tell me that they are ‘cool’ with me it is just the trigger puller that they are blaming?

May 22, 2012 at 3:22 pm
(9) thomas mola says:

King Henry 8th was excomunicated for a far less agrgious offence, as was Luther. madam Secratary has a far more demonic agenda. Let her fight her battles outside the Curtains of the Church Of Rome. She can settle the issue with God Almighty Himself in due time. I’, sure such an outstanding “chatholic” has read the Catachisim.

May 22, 2012 at 4:32 pm
(10) Salvy says:

Judith, sounds like you voted for this bum and still support this lousy tyrant. Worst of luck to the both of you.

May 22, 2012 at 5:25 pm
(11) Paul says:

Let us all pray for those who violate Church and Biblical Truths, which come from the Trinity. Maybe Christ had it right, “They do not know what they are doing.” But it is sure that Hell has no furry when people mandate to innocent citizens ways to kill and legislate human life. Judgement day will be interesting. The gamble is with legislators souls. So pray for them that they and their illegal and immoral laws fail, and society returns to the founding fathers Constitution and Biblical principles that make this country great. Right now we are in a spiral downward, both morally and financially. Thank you Mr. Obama.

May 22, 2012 at 7:22 pm
(12) Colette says:

Birth Control and abortion are wrong. As a Catholic in good faith, I cannot agree with what this so called administration is doing. First it is our religious freedom that goes…what next? We need to pray strong and hard for the voters in this country of ours to vote with their conscious this coming election. Our legislators want to enslave us anyway they can. What ever happened to the backbone citizens of the USA used to have? Have we become to complacent and too busy in our jobs and in life to notice what Obama is doing? Do we pay more attention to who has what and who doesn’t to pay attention to what our government is doing? Kathleen Sebelius, needs to get excommunicated for her views, if only to make an example that you cannot play with the Catholic Church which was founded on Jesus Christ! Judith, you are missing the point that others have already mentioned.

May 23, 2012 at 7:49 pm
(13) Yossarian says:

I don’t think the government should make the church pay for birth control. What the government needs to do is make the church start paying it’s taxes. If the Church want’s to stick it’s nose in politics, it needs to pay the admission fee. Just like everbody. This nonsense of tax exemption for religious institutions has gone on for far to long. I would love to see how long the Catholic Church (or any other church) would last if it had to stand on it’s own two feet. They complain about the government but they don’t mind the tax break.
As for the Catholic Church excommunicating Kathleen Sebelius…never happen. They need to keep her name on the books so they can convince the mormons that they still have the numbers.

May 25, 2012 at 9:26 pm
(14) Salvy says:

Yossarian, why don’t you pay more taxes since you love taxation so much. Why the hell should the church start paying taxes? Just because you say so?

May 29, 2012 at 9:37 am
(15) Randal says:


I think you have the argument a bit backwards. It is the government that is “sticking it’s nose” into church-related issues with the health-care mandate not the other way around. The church didn’t ask for the “fight”; it was clearly instigated by the current political administration who made the decision to throw down the gauntlet. The church has simply taken the fight where it has led – to the political arena.

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