Twelve separate lawsuits were filed Monday in district courts around the country on behalf of 43 separate religious organizations against the Obamacare anti-conscience mandate.
The complaints demand relief from the mandate that will force almost all employers to provide and pay for coverage of abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization regardless of the employers' moral or religious objections.
The lawsuits span from the dioceses of Washington, D.C., and Joilet, Illinois, to Catholic Charities of Jackson, Mississippi, and the Michigan Catholic Conference. The range of the 43 institutions that have joined the dozen suits highlights the variety of Good Samaritan groups harmed by the mandate. These ministries serve inner-city children, the elderly, deaf, developmentally disabled, HIV/AIDS patients, and homeless – among many others. Catholic outreach, like many other religious groups in America, seeks to serve those most in need.
As Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, explained Monday morning:
"For the first time in this country's history, the government's new definition of religious institutions suggests that some of the very institutions that put our faith into practice – schools, hospitals, and social service organizations – are not 'religious enough.'"
The mandate's religious exemption protects only those employers whose primary mission is preaching or teaching doctrine and serve only individuals who share the same faith. Many religious employers – such as the health centers, schools, and service organizations that filed suits Monday – are left completely unprotected simply because they step outside the walls of a church to serve individuals in their communities who may not share their beliefs.
As Cardinal Wuerl continued:
"The First Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom, however, was not meant to protect merely the right to worship, but also the right to contribute the fruits of our faith to the common good. And until now, our government had chosen to honor that guarantee.... But [the administration's] conception of what constitutes the practice of religion is so narrow that even Mother Teresa would not have qualified. We know that such a law cannot stand."
Insinuating that faith should remain behind closed doors, not influencing or motivating the care for others, this mandate assaults the right to the free exercise of religion and will force organizations into an untenable choice: either violate their deeply held beliefs or forfeit the provision of health insurance all together and risk steep fines.
At a time of dire economic conditions in this country, the Obama administration has determined to strip the very organizations that are helping the jobless, homeless, and others in need of their constitutional right to serve according to their beliefs.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, echoed the urgency of the plaintiffs' actions, explaining, "We have tried negotiation with the Administration and legislation with the Congress – and we'll keep at it – but there's still no fix. Time is running out, and our valuable ministries and fundamental rights hang in the balance, so we have to resort to the courts now."
Obama administration officials have appeared deaf to the widespread outcry against the liberty-trampling contraception mandate. Despite legal action, national protests, and even a congressional lesson in religious liberty, the Obama administration has remained indifferent to Americans' legitimate outrage over the government's coercive trampling of a First Amendment freedom.
But today, that din for religious liberty just got a lot louder and much harder to ignore.
First Appeared in The Orange County Register.