7 states filed lawsuits against the government Thursday regarding a congressional mandate that requires religious employers to offer health insurance coverage that includes contraceptives and other birth control services, according to a CNN article.
As I mentioned earlier this week this mandate has become a pressing issue in the religious realm especially for religious college's who have become increasingly unwilling to comply with the mandate.
Now the attorney's general from Nebraska, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Florida and Texas have filed suit.
The private plaintiffs that joined the states in the lawsuit include Pius X Catholic High School, Catholic Social Services, The Catholic Mutual Relief Society of America and private citizens Stacy Molai as well as Sister Mary Catherine.
The 25-page complaint named several defendants including: the United States Department of Health and Human Services and Secretary Kathleen Sebelius; the U.S. Department of the Treasury and Secretary Timothy Geithner; and the U.S. Department of Labor and Secretary Hilda Solis.
The states contend that the mandate violates the First Amendment as well as Religious Freedom Restoration Act because it requires employees at religious institutions such as hospitals to receive health coverage for contraceptives and other birth control services, which violates their constitutionally protected religious interests.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott believes that the mandate "compels people of faith to act contrary to their convictions." He additionally stated that "[t]he very first amendment to our Constitution was intended to protect against this sort of government intrusion into our religious convictions."
The government has yet to comment on the pending lawsuits.
Yet, these lawsuits are not the first that challenge congressional enactment of the ACA and its various provisions.
There have been several challenges to the ACA throughout the United States. Most notably the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals held that the ACA's individual mandate, which essentially compels individuals of a certain income level that do not currently own health insurance to purchase minimum coverage from private insurance companies, was an unconstitutional exercise of Congress' power under the Commerce Clause. The Supreme Court has since granted Certiorari in that case.
After an uproar amongst religious institutions President Obama announced a compromise to the mandate. Under the amended mandate, religiously affiliated universities and hospitals would not be forced to offer contraception coverage to their employees. Instead, insurers will be required to offer complete coverage for free to women who work at such institutions.
Yet, Obama, in announcing the compromise, stated that "no woman's health should depend on who she is or where she works or how much money she makes...the principle of religious liberty" was also at stake, and "as a citizen and as a Christian, I cherish this right."
The change in the law seems to be a somewhat a change in form over substance. Although, the compromise does not require religious institutions to directly provide free contraception to their employees it provides their employees indirect access to the free coverage through insurance companies. And this benefit goes against the very tenets of these church's religious faith.
The government's interest in providing free contraception to promote women's health and welfare and these religious institutions interest in protecting the freedom to exercise their religious beliefs are competing interests that the court will have to weigh in this case.
The ultimate decision will most likely rest on whether the law unconstitutionally seeks to burden fundamental religious rights or whether it merely incidentally affects these religious institutions that are supported by the 7 aforementioned states.
What do you think?
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