Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Judge will hold Obama administration to its pledge to modify HHS mandate

CWN - January 29, 2013
A US district court judge has dismissed a lawsuit against the HHS mandate filed by the Archdiocese of Washington, Catholic University of America, Catholic Charities of DC, and two other local Catholic organizations.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson

Judge Amy Berman Jackson, an Obama appointee, ruled that the lawsuit was not ripe because the plaintiffs had not yet suffered injury. Citing similar rulings involving suits brought by Wheaton College and Belmont Abbey College, she added:

Moreover, the government’s supplemental brief in this case clarifies that “the regulations will never be enforced in their present form against entities like the plaintiffs in those cases or plaintiffs here and that defendants will finalize amendments to the regulations in an effort to accommodate religious organizations with religious objections to contraceptive coverage before the rolling expiration of the safe harbor begins in August 2013” … [T]his Court “take[s] the government at its word and will hold it to it.”
“The Court notes that it has construed the government’s representations as a binding commitment and it would not look favorably upon the government’s failure to comply,” Judge Jackson said in a footnote.
“The court’s ruling today places the onus squarely on the government to fulfill its binding commitment to address the religious freedom concerns of the Archdiocese of Washington, Catholic University of America and several other Catholic entities,” the archdiocese said in a statement. “This requires the government to revise its HHS mandate in a way that truly respects our right to serve all those in need without violating our religious beliefs.”

The archdiocese added:
Today’s decision was based on two commitments the government made to the court in this case and others: first, that the mandate as currently written will never be enforced against us; and second, that the mandate will be revised in a way that addresses our religious freedom concerns by March 31, 2013.
The court specifically noted that the archdiocese and its co-plaintiffs have the right to file a new complaint if the government does not make a meaningful change to the mandate by the March deadline. The court made clear that “it would not look favorably upon the government’s failure to comply.”

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