Belmont Abbey HHS Mandate Case Dismissed. Resistance and Catholic Action!
We are living under an ominous cloud of religious oppression
Twenty three lawsuits have been filed alleging a violation of the First Amendment. The day before this DC opinion was released, a federal Judge in Nebraska dismissed a case filed by the Attorney General on a similar ground. Both judges held that the "safe harbor" provisions delayed enforcement until August of 2013 and thus removed any immediate threat. It is kind of like saying that the bully in the schoolyard with the clenched fist is not a threat until the fist connects with the face. Catholic Colleges and other institutions which clearly serve the common good have to find "safe harbors" to win more time to fight the unjust actions of the Obama Administration. We will not comply!
WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - On July 18, 2012, Federal Judge James Boasberg of the DC District Court dismissed the Lawsuit filed by Belmont Abbey College against the Obama Administration. The lawsuit alleged that the HHS Mandate attached to the Affordable care Act was an unconstitutional violation of their Free Exercise of Religion as protected by the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights of the US Constitution.
The HHS mandate requires all employers, including Catholic and other religious employers, to cover sterilization, abortion inducing drugs and contraception in their health care plans. The "exemption" provided for religious employers does not cover hospitals, universities, soup kitchens, outreaches to the poor and many other vital expressions of our Catholic faith and mission.
Following the strong outcry from every single Catholic Bishop in the United States and the massive resistance from the Catholic faithful (joined by many other concerned Christians, other people of faith and many people of good will) as well as the numerous lawsuits filed by Catholic and other Christian institutions, the Obama administration established a "safe harbor" which allows the institutions and outreaches affected to have an extension until Aug. 1, 2013.
Based upon an act of administrative sleight of hand, the Federal Judge found that the Belmont Abbey lawsuit was not ripe. The Federal Judge accepted the Governments argument that the case was premature because the mandate would not cause any immediate injury. In addition it seemed to take judicial notice that an accommodation might be reached. The Judge wrote a 24 page opinion which held in part,
"The court holds that the challenged rule is not 'sufficiently final.The government has done nothing to suggest that it might abandon its efforts to modify the rule - indeed, it has steadily pursued that course - and it is entitled to a presumption that it acts in good faith..At the end of the day, the Court offers no opinion on the merits of the current contraception-coverage regulations or any proposed future ones. If Plaintiff is displeased by the ultimate regulations, it may certainly renew its suit at that time. All the Court holds here is that Belmont has no basis to proceed now,"
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty brought the lawsuit. Their spokesperson properly reminded the Press that the decision is not final and the case can be refiled - if and when the alleged harm can be demonstrated. The Becket Fund lawyers are outstanding advocates. Their analysis is accurate. However, let's face reality. The Catholic Church, other Christians, and people of good will who recognize the egregious overreach of this Administration in this matter are now caught between a rock and a hard place as the saying goes. A new Caesar seems to have the upper hand.
Catholics believe that living the Gospel of Jesus Christ goes beyond the walls of our Church buildings. We are our brother and sister's keeper. We do not reach out to people in need because they are Catholic. We reach out to people in need because we are Catholic. The HHS Edict is a violation of the Free Exercise of Religion which is protected under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. It is an unjust law. The Federal Government of the United States is trying to force the Catholic Church to act against its deeply held religious convictions and to violate conscience.
Failure to comply with this new Caesar's mandate will bring punitive measures upon the Church and her institutions. This Judge now insists that we wait until the harm actually occurs! The onerous fines, recently called "taxes' by the Supreme Court, will have the practical result of closing many of the Church's outreaches, ministries and institutions of care and compassion. Certainly this not only injures the Church it injures American society and the common good.
The claim that this HHS mandate is an unjust law is rooted in the western understanding of the nature of law. It is the firm foundation upon which the American founders grounded their insistence that there are inalienable rights, endowed upon us all by a Creator, which cannot be taken away by any civil government. Positive law must reflect the Natural Law or it is unjust.
Saint Augustine said of an unjust law, "For it seems to me that an unjust law is no law at all."
Saint Thomas Aquinas explained, "Human law is law only in virtue of its accordance with right reason: and thus it is manifest that it flows from the eternal law. And in so far as it deviates from right reason it is called an unjust law; in such case it is no law at all, but rather a species of violence." In doing so, they echoed Cicero, Aristotle and Plato and the entire Natural Law Tradition.
Martin Luther King, Jr., in his 1963 Letter from a Birmingham Jail, gave a this explanation of how one ...
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