CASPER, Wyo. (CNS) — A federal judge in Casper May 13 denied a request from the Cheyenne Diocese and five other Catholic entities in the statewide diocese for an injunction against enforcement of the federal Department of Health and Human Services contraceptive mandate for employers.
U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl ruled in lawsuit filed Jan. 30 by the diocese and Catholic Charities of Wyoming, St. Joseph’s Children’s Home in Torrington, St. Anthony Tri-Parish in Casper, John Paul II Catholic School in Gillette and Wyoming Catholic College in Lander.
A hearing in the case took place earlier in May, with attorney David Raimer representing the Catholic groups and attorney Julie Saltman representing HHS and other defendants, including the American Civil Liberties Union.
The Cheyenne Diocese said Skavdahl’s decision conflicted with federal court rulings in several other lawsuits brought against the mandate by other Catholic dioceses and organizations.
“Since the challenged regulations take effect on July 1, 2014, and would force the plaintiffs to violate their deeply held Catholic beliefs or face crippling fines and penalties for noncompliance, we will appeal this decision and seek relief from the appellate court,” the diocese said in a statement.
The appeal will be filed with the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.
The mandate, which is part of the Affordable Care Act, requires nearly all employers to provide their employees with health insurance coverage for contraceptives, some abortion-inducing drugs and sterilizations. It includes an exemption for some religious employers that fit certain criteria. The mandate does not include a conscience clause for employers who object to such coverage on moral grounds.
Skavdahl said the Catholic plaintiffs were not entitled to an injunction to block the mandate, because the Obama administration allows nonexempt employers to use a third party to pay for coverage they find objectionable.
These employers must fill out a government form directing the administrator of their health plan or another third party to provide the coverage.
Raimer argued at the hearing that the Wyoming diocese and the other Catholic entities in the suit “sincerely believe that they cannot fill out that self-certification form without violating their sincerely held religious beliefs.”
A statement issued by the Cheyenne Diocese in January when the suit was filed said that in addition to filling out the form, a nonexempt religious employer is required “to take numerous additional steps to ensure that their health plans serve as a conduit for the delivery of (contraceptive) coverage.”
The diocese and the other Catholic groups argue that overall the mandate violates their First Amendment right to free exercise of religion as well as protections established under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Join the CatholicPhilly.com family
CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you and hundreds of other people become part of our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community and sustain CatholicPhilly.com as your trusted news source. Thank you in advance!
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103