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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Ind. Decisions - "Judge stalls contraception insurance mandate for diocese" [Updated]

Updating this Dec. 23rd ILB entry, headed "Judge [Simon] rules against Notre Dame in health care suit" (which includes a link to the opinion), a reader sent this note yesterday:

Marcia: Didn’t know if you saw but Ind. Northern District Judge Jon Deguilio granted the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend’s TRO petition where the arguments were essentially the same as the Notre Dame case (wherein Chief Judge Simon denied the TRO to Notre Dame). Judge Deguilio even noted Judge Simon’s decision.
The reader also points out that the same Jones Day attorney "represented both Plaintiffs (and got two bites at the apple)". Here is the 39-page ND Ind. opinion in Diocese of Fort Wayne v. Sebelius. See p. 20 for the mention of the Notre Dame opinion in footnote 8.

Here is Brian Francisco's story today in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. It begins:

A federal judge has issued a temporary injunction preventing the Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend from having to provide to its workers medical insurance that pays for contraception and sterilization services.

The ruling is at least a short-term victory for the church, which is resisting a provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that takes effect Wednesday.

The injunction was granted Friday by Judge Jon DeGuilio in the U.S. District Court for Northern Indiana in South Bend.

"Long game to play. It's a good first step. We'll wait to see what the final ruling is," Sean McBride, diocese communications director, said in a telephone interview.

"But we are pleased to get the injunctive relief, you bet," he said.

McBride said he believes the injunction will last until the court rules on the diocese's 2012 lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and other federal government agencies that administer the health care law.

[More] Madeline Buckley of the South Bend Tribune also has a story today; it addresses the conflict head-on:

A federal judge has granted the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend and a number of other Catholic organizations relief from parts of the Affordable Care Act, writing that the religious liberty arguments at play in the lawsuit have some likelihood of success.

U.S. District Judge Jon DeGuilio granted a preliminary injunction Friday to "prevent the possibility of any unjust enforcement" until the courts can rule on the argument regarding religious freedom.

A judge ruled against the University of Notre Dame in a similar request for relief earlier this month. The university filed an appeal of the judge's decision.

Like Notre Dame and other religiously-affiliated institutions, the diocese filed a lawsuit last year that challenges the constitutionality of portions of the federal health care law, arguing that it violates the right to religious freedom in its provisions regarding coverage for contraceptives.

But the diocese and other organizations in the suit were successful where Notre Dame was not in receiving an injunction from enforcement of the law when new health care plans will take affect in January.

At issue in both requests for an injunction was an option the Obama administration put forth that allows religious institutions to opt out of paying for the contraceptives, which would shift the payment elsewhere.

DeGuilio reasoned that the diocese’s case has possible merit to succeed.

“It’s the facilitation of the objectionable services, not the related cost, that offends their religious beliefs,” DeGuilio wrote.

In Notre Dame’s case, though, U.S. District Judge Philip P. Simon wrote that Notre Dame was unlikely to succeed in its ultimate argument.

“Notre Dame is free to opt out of providing coverage itself, but it can’t stop anyone else from providing it,” Simon wrote.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 31, 2013 09:27 AM
Posted to Ind Fed D.Ct. Decisions