January 6, 2014
Attorneys representing the Diocese of Nashville, Catholic Charities of Tennessee, Camp Marymount, Mary Queen of Angels, St. Mary Villa, the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia and Aquinas College learned late in the day on December 31 that the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati granted a motion staying the implementation of the requirements of the Affordable Care Act that the Catholic organizations help provide abortive drugs, sterilization services, and other forms of contraception that are against their firmly held religious teachings. The stay means that the mandate will not be in force while the Sixth Circuit considers the request for a permanent injunction and the lawsuit continues to work its way through the US Federal District Court in Nashville.
The Diocese of Nashville, Catholic Charities of Tennessee, Camp Marymount, Mary Queen of Angels, St. Mary Villa, the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia and Aquinas College filed a lawsuit against the federal government on Nov. 22 seeking to block the implementation of regulations created by the Department of Health and Human Services that would require them to help provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing products, sterilization, and contraception under the Affordable Care Act. In the lawsuit, the Catholic entities argue that the mandate is a violation of sincerely held religious beliefs and an unconstitutional attack on their religious liberty rights under the First Amendment.
In the motion, the diocese and the other plaintiffs asked the court to issue an injunction that would free them from complying with the requirements of the mandate when their new health insurance plans were to take effect on Jan. 1, 2014, pending the actual trial that should take place later in the year.
On Monday, Dec. 23, at a motion hearing before Judge Todd Campbell in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, attorneys representing the plaintiffs argued that the requirements of the mandate violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
On Thursday, Dec. 26, the court issued a brief order denying the motion. Attorneys representing the diocese immediately filed an appeal to the ruling with the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. As the close of business approached on Tuesday, Dec. 31, the Sixth Circuit Court had not yet ruled and attorneys representing the diocese and others filed an emergency appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court.
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has asked President Barack Obama to delay enforcement of the mandate while various legal challenges work their way through the courts.
This motion is similar to others filed around the country, and federal district courts have returned mixed verdicts. Twelve have ruled in favor of the positions taken by Catholic organizations, five have ruled against.