Judge dismisses Ohio birth control lawsuit
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The government is sufficiently addressing the concerns of an Ohio Roman Catholic university and dioceses in Michigan over a provision of the federal health care law mandating employer-provided birth control, a federal judge ruled on Friday in dismissing their lawsuit.
Franciscan University of Steubenville and an association of Michigan Roman Catholic dioceses sued last year, saying the mandate violates religious freedom by requiring a Catholic entity to comply with the rule.
That portion of the federal health care law came under fire from religious groups that object to the use of contraceptives, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs.
In response to the criticism, the Obama administration has been trying to soften the mandate to accommodate religious groups, such as shifting the requirement from the employers to health insurers themselves.
The Justice Department told the court that the school and dioceses are protected from the mandate's requirements until at least 2014.
The department also said the lawsuit was not timely because changes were being made to the regulations to meet the groups' concerns.
U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley sided with the government, saying the groups could not prove they would ever likely suffer the harm they allege.
He noted that 15 other federal courts have ruled that similar lawsuits were not timely, and most of those 15 decisions determined the groups filing the lawsuits lacked jurisdiction.
The judge also criticized Franciscan University over its decision in May to drop its student health insurance program out of fear of one day having to provide coverage for contraception.
Marbley said the university cannot argue harm based on “a phantom specter” created by its own fears, which the government has stated are unsubstantiated.
“It is gravely unfortunate that Franciscan's students have lost the opportunity to receive health insurance coverage from the University,” the judge said.
“To the extent Franciscan claims its decision to discontinue providing student insurance is a hardship to itself, however, the hardship is self-inflicted,” Marbley continued.
Both the Justice Department and an attorney for the Michigan dioceses declined to comment.
Franciscan University promised to refile the lawsuit at the appropriate time.
The Rev. Terence Henry, the university's president, said the university is still being harmed because, while its current health insurance plan is protected by a “grandfathered” status, any changes in the plan could trigger forced acceptance of the mandate.
“We will not stop fighting this unjust mandate, and we are in this for the long haul,” Henry said in a statement. “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.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Car plows into crowd in California, killing 3
- Computer hackers’ attack on Sony ‘merits an appropriate response,’ White House says
- Feds design college ratings system
- Federal regulators pen rules for Cuba trade, tourism
- Social Security yanked from deported Nazis
- Feds to sue New York City over civil rights of teen inmates in Rikers jail
- Sen. McConnell wants to stop coal rules
- Federal injunction stops Arizona from enforcing policy of denying driver’s licenses to young immigrants
- Los Angeles apartment complex fire deliberately set, ATF investigators find
- EPA tabs $3.1M to curb algae in Lake Erie
- U.S. to open embassy in Cuba soon