Big ObamaCare Setback: Court Ruling Lets Church Challenges Proceed
An important ruling came down concerning the HHS mandate that deserves more attention than it has received.
The ruling was last week in favor of the archdiocese of New York and against the government and its HHS mandate. In it the judge allowed the case to proceed, saying that penalties for non-compliance on conscience grounds are both “looming and certain” and an “actual well-founded fear.” He also said that the plaintiffs are already suffering damages in the form of preparations and diversion of funds from regular activities. Moreover he pointed out that legally there exists no “accommodation” for conscientious objectors, and doubted the government’s promise to accommodate people of faith since and ample time has elapsed and nothing has materialized.
See today’s IBD story below on the ruling and Cardinal Dolan’s reaction to the media blackout.
Here’s an encouraging update on the nationwide legal challenges to ObamaCare by religious institutions that will be forced to provide insurance coverage for such things as abortion drugs, birth control and sterilizations that violate their beliefs.
This story is a week old, actually. Strangely, you haven’t seen any real coverage of this development in mainstream media, perhaps because it concerns a crucial legal setback for Barack Obama and Kathleen Sebelius in a New York federal court.
As is Eric Holder’s style when his Justice Department is challenged, he attempts not to argue the typically weak legal issues he has but to challenge the standing or timing of the challengers. That’s worked in some of the 42 religious lawsuits filed over ObamaCare’s pending implementation that the churches say violate their constitutional protections for religious freedom.
But that strategy did not work in the Eastern District Federal Courtroom of Judge Brian Cogan. For the first time, a federal judge allowed this constitutional challenge of ObamaCare to proceed.
The Obama administration had sought to have the case by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York thrown out because of its so-called “temporary safe harbor” provision.
That was a statement last winter by Health and Human Services that it would not seek to enforce or prosecute religious institutions for failing to provide such controversial coverage until later next year while steps to address their concerns were developed.
There have been no concrete attempts made to provide such steps. And privately, now skeptical church officials confide the president had previously assured them even before his February news conference that their worries were already addressed, which they were not.
Judge Cogan completely rejected Obama’s argument, calling the administration’s punitive steps against the religious institutions an “actual and well-founded fear” that is “looming and certain” much like “a speeding train that is coming towards plaintiffs.”
He chided the administration as having had ample time to address the institutions’ concerns already. And then Judge Cogan let forth with this:
“The First Amendment does not require citizens to accept assurances from the government that, if the government later determines it has made a misstep, it will take ameliorative action.
“There is no, ‘Trust us, changes are coming’ clause in the Constitution.
“To the contrary, the Bill of Rights itself, and the First Amendment in particular, reflect a degree of skepticism towards governmental self-restraint and self-correction.”
New York, one of the country’s largest archdioceses, has estimated it would incur upwards of $200 million in fines and penalties for not providing the required free coverage to the 9,000 employees covered by its insurance plans.
So concerned were church officials that they issued a special pre-election letter to all Catholics, as we wrote here. It didn’t suggest support for any specific candidate but reminded congregants of the faith’s moral precepts and urged them to vote their conscience.
Since those precepts oppose abortion, for instance, the choice was pretty clearly not the fellow forcing the church to fund such insurance coverage.
A puzzled Cardinal Dolan wrote to parishioners this week:
“Did you hear about the decision last week by U.S. District Court Judge Brian M. Cogan in the lawsuit brought by the Archdiocese of New York…….against the administration for the unconstitutional HHS mandate?
“You probably did not, as there seems to have been virtually no mention of the decision — in favor of the archdiocese, by the way — in any local newspaper or on television.
“As far as I can tell, and I’ve looked rather carefully, there hasn’t even been a story in the New York Times, which couldn’t wait to publish an editorial this past October, admonishing the bishops, when a federal judge in Missouri found for the administration and dismissed a similar case brought by a private, for-profit, mining company.”
Well, as a first step, at least now the Cardinal has our version to read and distribute.
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