Catholic University Appeals Dismissal of Contraception Mandate Lawsuit

Published May 2, 2013

An Ohio Roman Catholic university is appealing the dismissal of its lawsuit against the Obama administration regarding the HHS mandate to provide free contraception to employees and students.

Father Terence Henry, the president of Franciscan University of Steubenville, vowed to continue fighting the ObamaCare provision.

“We will not stop fighting this unjust mandate, and we are in this for the long haul,” said Father Henry. “We are very confident in the merits of our case, and we will continue to do everything in our power to protect our constitutional right to religious freedom.”

Franciscan University’s lawsuit was one of 12 lawsuits against the provision which were filed in May 2012 by 43 Catholic organizations and dioceses.

U.S. District Court Judge Algenon L. Marbley dismissed Franciscan’s lawsuit against the Obama administration on the basis that the case was not ripe, reasoning the university had yet to be injured by the mandate.

“This is in no way a loss. The judge did not rule on the merits of our case and dismissed our lawsuit for ripeness, so Franciscan has every right—and I would add, the duty—to re-file our lawsuit at the appropriate time,” Father Henry said.

Battle Over Religious Liberty

Michael Hernon, vice president of advancement at Franciscan, said the university’s commitment to fight the mandate is fundamental to its identity.

“We’re fighting for the right to live the faith we teach,” Hernon said. “Our faith is at the heart of who we are—our identity and our purpose.”

Hernon says Franciscan students, parents, and alumni have been vocal about fighting the Obama administration over the HHS mandate. Students have led rallies for religious liberty on street corners, and the university received increased support from alumni when it discontinued the requirement that students purchase supplemental insurance upon entering the university. The university made this decision in response to the HHS mandate and the rising costs of premiums under President Obama’s health care law.

Hernon said he believes the nation is in “unprecedented times” when there is “an all-out assault on religion and religious liberty.”

“We have an administration that is no longer defending the Defense of Marriage Act, they are curtailing chaplains in the military, and we have the HHS mandate that has intruded upon our right to practice what we believe,” he said. “The Obama administration has determined that we no longer have freedom of religion, just freedom to worship.”

Hernon disagrees with skeptics who say the legal fight is no longer winnable.

“People of all faiths are recognizing more assaults on our freedom. Our culture has allowed this to happen. Government should not define the terms of religion,” Hernon said. “We must stand up for the next generation of Americans. The fight against the HHS mandate and the other infringements upon religious liberty affects all Americans. It’s an assault on the very fabric of our beings.”

Susan Berry ([email protected]) writes from Texas.