February 22, 2014, 11:34 am
Court: Notre Dame must adhere to ObamaCare birth control mandate
By Tim Devaney
The University of Notre Dame must provide birth control to employees and students after a federal appeals court ruled Friday, a move the school says will force it to violate its religious beliefs.
In a blow to religious colleges and universities across the country, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago denied Notre Dame's request for an injunction to the ObamaCare birth control mandate that requires the school to provide coverage for contraception.
The injunction would have given Notre Dame a temporary reprieve from the birth control mandate, as the Roman Catholic school challenges the rule in court. But the appeals court ruled 2-1 that the school will have to comply with the rule, even before it hears the court's final decision.
The court found Notre Dame "has not yet shown that there is a substantial burden" in complying with the birth control mandate.
"If the government is entitled to require that female contraceptives be provided to women free of charge, we have trouble understanding how signing the form that declares Notre Dame's authorized refusal to pay for contraceptives for its students or staff, and mailing the authorization document to those (insurance) companies, which under federal law are obligated to pick up the tab, could be thought to 'trigger' the provision of female contraceptives," Judge Richard Posner wrote in the majority opinion of the court.
But Judge Joel Flaum sided with Notre Dame in his dissenting opinion.
"Notre Dame tells us that Catholic doctrine prohibits the actions that the government requires it to take," Flaum wrote. "So long as that belief is sincerely held, I believe we should defer to Notre Dame's understanding."
This comes after the Obama administration extended an olive branch to religious institutions. President Obama offered a compromise so that religious groups could let their insurance providers handle the birth control provisions. But Notre Dame and a handful of other religious schools argue this is inadequate because they would still be complicit in providing contraception coverage.
The Catholic church has a long-standing opposition to contraception.
Notre Dame brought the lawsuit against the Department of Health & Human Services, which is administering many of the ObamaCare rules, including the birth control mandate.
The birth control mandate has been challenged by a number of religious universities and businesses. Two religious business owners will argue against the rule before the Supreme Court next month.