SOUTH BEND, Ind. (21Alive) - The University of Notre Dame re-filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against the Obama Administration in attempt to block a health care mandate that would require the school to provide birth control coverage to employees and students.
The university objects to the mandate on religious freedom grounds, saying that a requirement of the Roman Catholic institution or third-party insurance administrators to include contraceptive services and drugs as part of insurance coverage violates Church teachings.
"This lawsuit is about one of America's most cherished freedoms: the freedom to practice one's religion without government interference," the complaint opens. "It is not about whether people have a right to abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception." (Read entire lawsuit here)
Notre Dame names the Health & Human Services, Treasury and Labor departments as defendants; and asks the U.S. District Court of Northern Indiana to strike down the mandate as a violation of the university's First Amendment rights. The court dismissed the original lawsuit filed May 21, ruling the suit was too premature to rule on.
"We have sought neither to prevent women from having access to services, nor even to prevent the government from providing them," Notre Dame president Fr. John Jenkins, CSC, said in a university statement. "Our abiding concern in both the original filing of May 21, 2012, and this re-filing has been Notre Dame's freedom - and indeed the freedom of many religious organizations in this country - to live out a religious mission." (Read Notre Dame's statement here)
Bishop Kevin Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, of which Notre Dame is part, issued his support for the university's lawsuit.
"I am happy that Notre Dame remains in strong solidarity with the diocese and U.S. bishops in defending our religious liberty," Rhoades said in a diocesan statement. "I hope and pray that we are successful in our lawsuits opposing this government intrusion into our mission to serve the common good according to our teachings." (Read the diocese's entire statement here)
The mandate is a provision of the larger Affordable Health Care Act, and is set to take effect Jan. 1.
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