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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Ind. Decisions - Still more on: Notre Dame sues feds over requirement to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives

Updating this ILB entry from January 10th, the South Bend Tribune today has published a long opinion piece by Bridgette Dunlap, the Human Rights Fellow at the Leitner Center for International Law and Justice at the Fordham University School of Law, and Kathryn Pogin, a Ph.D. student in philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. The heading: "Lawsuit raises question: Who is Notre Dame?" A few quotes:

In its lawsuit challenging the federal contraceptive coverage rule, the University of Notre Dame claims to have rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. RFRA protects "(a) person whose religious exercise has been burdened" by the government. Such a person can seek an exemption from a law if she has a sincere religious belief that will be substantially burdened. The assertion that Notre Dame can sue under RFRA raises the question: Who is Notre Dame?

The claim to protection under RFRA would seem to rest on one of two theories: Either that the term "person" should be read to include corporations, or, that the corporation represents as-of-yet unidentified human persons, as when a church sues on behalf of parishioners. Notre Dame's court submissions exhibit confusion on this point, referring to Notre Dame both as having a singular "conscience" and as having plural "consciences." * * *

We believe the proposition that Notre Dame can hold one unified religious belief is antithetical to the very purpose of a university. Notre Dame's administration appears to disagree. Should it appeal the dismissal of the lawsuit or refile once the contraceptive coverage rule is finalized, the plaintiff should plead who or what is the person that holds the beliefs alleged. Perhaps more importantly, it should inform the members of the Notre Dame community, and those considering joining it, who can rightly claim "We Are ND."

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 27, 2013 04:34 PM
Posted to Ind Fed D.Ct. Decisions