With the Obama administration's contraception mandate "bearing down," the Catholic University of America joined the Roman Catholic archbishop in the nation's capital in a renewed legal push to block enforcement of the provision that requires larger employers to insure birth control as part of their health plans.
The Washington-based university, like all faith-based nonprofits, faces crunch time in deciding whether to challenge the rule tied to the Affordable Care Act or accept an "accommodation" that the Obama administration offered earlier this year.
Under the regulatory compromise, employees of religious universities and hospitals can obtain contraceptive coverage through separate policies from their employer's insurer.
The idea is to divorce religious employers from paying or managing coverage they object to, particularly "morning-after" pills they might equate with abortion.
But the archbishop of Washington and Catholic University filed court papers Aug. 12 that say, "contrary to the government's prior representations," the mandate still requires religious organizations to provide or facilitate access to contraception and "abortion-inducing products."
"By paying premiums to the issuer, the university will indirectly pay for these 'free' services," Frank G. Persico, chief of staff and vice president for university relations, said in an affidavit enclosed with the court filing. "The university will also be facilitating the provision of these services since the objectionable coverage will be triggered by Catholic's health insurance plan."
They are seeking a preliminary injunction to relieve the university from the mandate while courts around the country mull the merits of dozens of lawsuits from faith-based nonprofits and corporations with religiously devout owners.
This is Catholic's second attempt at relief, after a federal district court dismissed their initial filing in January procedural grounds, calling it premature.
Colorado Christian University also re-filed its lawsuit against the mandate this month.
Houses of worship are exempt from the mandate, but for-profit corporations have not been granted any relief.
Supporters of the mandate say religiously-affiliated employers have been sufficiently accommodated, and that secular, corporate employers do not have the right to impose their beliefs on their employees.
The mandate is about to take effect of religious nonprofits in 2014, so various institutions are diverging on how they want to proceed.
In recent months, Georgetown University and the Catholic Hospital Association have accepted the terms of the government's accommodation. But America's Catholic bishops, the Southern Baptist Convention and other religious groups still reject the compromise.
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