Lawsuits were filed by 43 Catholic institutions in federal court today against the Obama Administration over the HHS Mandate.
Among the plaintiffs, the University of Notre Dame is the most significant.
In announcing its lawsuit, Notre Dame’s president, Father John Jenkins, CSC, sent an email to university employees in which he wrote:
Today the University of Notre Dame filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana regarding a recent mandate from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). That mandate requires Notre Dame and similar religious organizations to provide in their insurance plans abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilization procedures, which are contrary to Catholic teaching. The decision to file this lawsuit came after much deliberation, discussion and efforts to find a solution acceptable to the various parties.
Let me say very clearly what this lawsuit is not about: it is not about preventing women from having access to contraception, nor even about preventing the Government from providing such services. Many of our faculty, staff and students — both Catholic and non-Catholic — have made conscientious decisions to use contraceptives. As we assert the right to follow our conscience, we respect their right to follow theirs. And we believe that, if the Government wishes to provide such services, means are available that do not compel religious organizations to serve as its agents. We do not seek to impose our religious beliefs on others; we simply ask that the Government not impose its values on the University when those values conflict with our religious teachings. We have engaged in conversations to find a resolution that respects the consciences of all and we will continue to do so. [emphasis added]
Note in particular the sentence in bold, above, and contrast it with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ utterly nonsensical interpretation of JFK’s words regarding religious freedom that she quoted in her address to Georgetown’s Public Policy Institute graduates last week.
Father Jenkins continues:
This filing is about the freedom of a religious organization to live its mission, and its significance goes well beyond any debate about contraceptives. For if we concede that the Government can decide which religious organizations are sufficiently religious to be awarded the freedom to follow the principles that define their mission, then we have begun to walk down a path that ultimately leads to the undermining of those institutions. For if one Presidential Administration can override our religious purpose and use religious organizations to advance policies that undercut our values, then surely another Administration will do the same for another very different set of policies, each time invoking some concept of popular will or the public good, with the result these religious organizations become mere tools for the exercise of government power, morally subservient to the state, and not free from its infringements. If that happens, it will be the end of genuinely religious organizations in all but name.
Father Jenkins’ email could not be more clear: The fight against the HHS Mandate is not about contraception. It’s about religious freedom.
The significance of this lawsuit brought by Notre Dame against the Obama Administration cannot be understated.
This is the same Notre Dame that invited President Obama to deliver Notre Dame’s commencement address in 2009 — which prompted the Pro-Life Action League and Citizens for a Pro-Life Society to organize a massive protest in response to this scandal.
At the time, Father Jenkins refused to dis-invite Obama, despite the outcry of tens of thousands of the faithful, and more than 80 Catholic bishops.
But this time, Father Jenkins has done the right thing. He and the other powers to be at Notre Dame are to be commended for filing this lawsuit, as are those at the other 42 Catholic institutions that have filed suit over the HHS Mandate.