Federal District Court Judge Rules New York Archdiocese Challenge To Birth Control Benefit May Proceed


A federal district court in New York denied the Obama administration’s request to dismiss a challenge to the contraception mandate filed by a group of Catholic organizations.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York and two other Catholic entities challenged the law, arguing that providing their employees with a health insurance plan that makes contraception available without a co-pay violates their rights to free exercise of religion. The Obama administration argued the plaintiffs couldn’t challenge the insurance requirement at this time since the mandate, which doesn’t take effect until January 2014, isn’t causing the archdiocese any imminent injury. Furthermore, the administration argued, an additional compromise  and the administration to address concerns of religious organizations is in the works.

But U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan disagreed, ruling the archdiocese “demonstrated how the enormous changes to their plans required by the coverage mandate currently exacerbate their preparation costs.” That showing, the court found, was sufficient to demonstrate “imminent” harm because it was causing them to “divert funds from their ministries.”

The archdiocese includes 370 parishes and insures approximately 9,000 people and currently operates a self-insured health plan that bars contraception coverage except for other, medically necessary purposes.

The ruling didn’t address the merits of the archdiocese claims, but simply allows the plaintiffs to move beyond initial allegations and forward with their challenge.

The case is Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York v. Sebelius, 12-02542, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Follow Jessica Mason Pieklo on twitter: @hegemommy

  • michelle-mesick

    First of all, the church already pays for sin. Or is there an insurance plan that refuses to pay for Viagra for unmarried men? Won’t this health insurance law legally require them to pay for ED treatments to single men who request it? What about supposedly celibate priests?

    Second of all, “imminent harm”? They’re pulling in money hand over fist, tax-free, and they claim that having to spend a little of that money on complying with the law is “imminent harm”? And the courts are willing to consider letting these people break the law so the pesky law won’t interfere with their “ministries”?

    Isn’t exempting certain institutions from the law based on religion against the first amendment?

  • deb-r

    I had a harrowing experience recently –my husband was admitted to hospital after vomiting blood, he was bleeding internally and ultimately needed 5 units of blood. It was really scary for us–but can you imagine how much more it would have been if the only hospital around was run by Jehovah Witnesses and they refused to allow blood transfusions or what if my husbands employer refused to allow insurance to pay for blood transfusions–adding to our stress with concern about money! Religious beliefs should NOT ever be allowed to effect policys.

  • hoots

    AMENDMENT I

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

    So playing the devil’s advocate, Michelle, doesn’t the law seem to be protecting religions from participating in policy that they conscientiously object to? Not the opposite which you suggest? Regardless of one’s personal opinion on the matter, the constitution’s statement allows one’s ministries to be exempted from laws that would force their religious hand…I’m at a point of searching for why I believe what I do, personally, in my life right now, and I feel compelled to look at these questions with an openmindedness heretofore unpracticed. It is apparent that you have disparate views from those of the Catholic Church, however, in the name of constitutional freedom, why should an institution that holds a certain religious view be forced to act against their conscience? If you practiced yoga religiously and Congress passed a law outlawing it, what would be your reaction?

  • crowepps

    Religious freedom is a right of individuals, not institutions.  All of the rights in our Constitution are those of individuals.

    The Catholic Church has every right to *persuade* people to do things the way they think is right.  Neither they nor any other religious institution should have the right to *force* people to follow their peculiar rules when doing so violates those individuals’ conscience and freedom of religion.

    Consider that one of the religious views of the Catholic Church is that victims of child sexual abuse are ’seductive’, are ’tempting’ their abusers, and that the most important issue involved is helping the *abuser*, reconciling the *abuser* to the Church, and *forgiving* the abuser.  Should they be forced to act against their conscience in *that* religious view and turn abusers over to civil authorities so they can be isolated from future victims?  Most people would say yes.

  • give-em-hell-mary

    Let’s hear it for Viagra spousal notification, since most anti-choice men have sex with everyone but their wives!

    And parishioner and sex offender Viagra notification to catch all those pretend-celibate priests and parole-breaking perps!

  • give-em-hell-mary

    Criminal child-raping and mother-killing heretic genocide “Christian” cults have no constitutional “freedom of religion” to commit criminal Munchausen by Proxy medical fraud and murder against uninformed and held-hostage patients, employees and passersby.  Get over yourself, malpractice enabler!

  • crowepps

    Certainly wives ought to give ‘permission’ since if she is past menopause, there’s no reason for them to have sex anyway.

  • ljean8080

    classey.

     

  • hoots

    Well that would hold water, except the Amendment say its the right of Institutions, not individuals in Institutions..so you’re starting from the wrong point there. They are the right of individuals, and any one else specified. The Catholic Church is an institution.

    I completely agree with you, that no one can be forced to act against there conscience! The reason the Church can legally exist is because no one is forced to be part of it. Believe me, I’m as sick of Catholic bureaucracy and underhandedness as the next person! I’m simply saying that if you don’t like a particular set of rules in a faith, GO ELSEWHERE! Why be part of something you believe is wrong? Also, yes, I agree, any priest that abuses someone should be most definitely subject to civil law. I still wouldn’t call all priests bad men, or condemn the entire Catholic Church. I believe that the *written* faith of the Church does not condone those acts of those *people* in the Church..I’d like to have a logical conversation “give em hell mary”, is that too much to ask? apparently… 

  • prochoiceferret

    Well that would hold water, except the Amendment say its the right of Institutions, not individuals in Institutions

     

    Oh, really?

     

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution

     

    I don’t see anything in there about “prohibiting the free exercise thereof” protecting institutions, not individuals. I suspect your copy of the U.S. Constitution may have been tampered with.

     

    I believe that the *written* faith of the Church does not condone those acts of those *people* in the Church.

     

    Kind of like how China’s constitution says that people have freedom of speech, and thus does not condone their whole imprisoning-dissidents-for-decades shtick.

  • colleen

    I’d like to have a logical conversation “give em hell mary”, is that too much to ask? apparently…

    If you want to have a logical conversation then you had best start with framing the issue in an honest manner. This you have failed to do.

    Where would you have women go to be free of the doctrinal misogyny and political aspirations of the religious right in general and the Catholic church in particular. Papua New Guinea? I’ll bet there are Catholic hospitals there too,  eager to exercise what serves a Catholic for a conscience by ‘allowing’ women whose pregnancies are killing them to die in great suffering rather than allow them a simple abortion. Where can we go to be free from being forced to pay with ouir tax money for discriminatory social services? The RCC acts like our tax money belongs to them. Do you think that the RCC’s attempts to recriminalize abortion and effective contraception don’t have a negative effect of the lives of all women, Catholic or not? Hell, I use this blog for information and to connect with pro-choice women and the ‘pro-life’ community (including yourself) does everything it can to disrupt, dumb down and derail every interesting or productive conversation here.

  • crowepps

    The Catholic Church isn’t just ”an institution”, it’s a foreign government, and the head of that State has minions in every country, eager to interfere in the lives of citizens worldwide by corrupting their governments and demanding laws everywhere conform to the peculiar misogynistic and sado-masocistic standards of their beliefs.

    You wouldn’t call all priests bad men, or condemn the entire Catholic Church?  You’re entitled to your opinion.  But then, they’re not trying to kill you.

    My opinion is ”by their fruits you shall know them”, and that the Church as an institution does far more harm than good.

  • ljean8080

    was wrong for saving my life when i was a kid?

  • crowepps

    First, I didn’t say that members of the Church had never done anything good.

    Second, the CHURCH didn’t save your life, the HOSPITAL BUILDING and HOSPITAL ADMINISTRATION didn’t save your life, the DOCTORS and NURSES saved your life, and they weren’t necessarily even Catholic.

  • give-em-hell-mary

    And yet you’ll give your genocidal cult a free pass because its legion of bad apples and snooty enablers simply overlooked you when dishing out their notorious deadly abuses!  By your crazy logic, crazed serial killer Richard Speck would get a free pass from you also simply because he didn’t notice you hiding under the bed as he slaughtered your roommates!

  • give-em-hell-mary

    “The reason the Church can legally exist is because no one is forced to be part of it….if you don’t like a particular set of rules in a faith, GO ELSEWHERE!”

    No one is forced?!  What planet are you living on?!  Not only has the RCC genocided millions of heretics and non-believers throughout its history and particularly with its collusion with 20th century dictators, it also forces itself on the abused children of Catholic extremists like my mom.  Where was my “freedom to go elsewhere” when she chemically burned my skin in first grade as her abstinence only excuse?  Where was my “freedom to go elsewhere” when I had to sport her abuse scars on my face for job interviews and singles bars?  Where was Savita’s “freedom to go elsewhere” for an emergency abortion in an RCC-controlled country?

    “I’d like to have a logical conversation “give em hell mary”, is that too much to ask? apparently…”

    When you yank off your blinders, smart ass!

  • hoots

    Dear Ferret,

     This is simply a misunderstanding that is easily cleared up. I can see how it was misinterpereted, but i simply mean that the Amendment is not restricted to individuals, as michelle suggested. I’m saying the clause says “establishments,” so establishments are protected, as well as individuals. We’re on the same page…of the same Constitution. If you want to view the Catholic Church as a parallel of Chinese government, that’s your perogative. I, however, will remain optimistic, and therefore be the recipient of your ire, I’m sure.

    Dear Colleen,

    I’m sorry you don’t like having conversations with me. I like having conversation with you. Being that this website supports liberal minded individuals, I signed up with the idea that open-mindedness would be an integral part of the conversations. I cannot believe that this is not the case, and must chalk your rather close minded response up to anticipation of coming holiday cheer. I know that the wait can wear on one. You’ve decided you know me, and that’s unfortunate, as it goes against the principles you have publicly espoused. I believe the conversation took a nice turn from one-sided back slapping to healthy debate. Almost. 

    For all of you that don’t like what I’m saying, you have come to this point at a bias which allows for little reason. The Catholic church is afforded rights by the Constitution. As are we all. And we want to keep these rights (I hope, although if give em hell Mary has her way, watch out). If we do, we must allow others to have the same rights we have, or we act hypocritically. They are against contraception and abortion. That’s their right under freedom of religion. Therefore, they can’t be forced to collaborate with a federal policy that is in contradiction with their religion. My reason for being so intent on this argument is that if the government is allowed to take down an institution’s Constitutional right, then what becomes the next step? What reason would you have to object to the government if 25 years from now, they decided Planned Parenthood was an establishment that no longer was allowed to practice freedom of speech. We all learn as children to be careful what we wish for…

  • jennifer-starr

    I can see where your rights extend to choosing not to personally use birth control. I can’t see why those rights extend to denying birth control to someone else–someone who might not even be Catholic. 

  • crowepps

    “The establishment of religion clause means at least this: Neither a state nor the federal government may set up a church. Neither can pass laws that aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion… . Neither a state or the federal government may, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect ‘a wall of separation between church and state.’”

    http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0330_0001_ZS.html

    Establishments are protected insofar as the government is forbidden from having an opinion about their entirely internal affairs, however “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” also means that government is forbidden from providing special exemptions for religious institutions from criminal law, from public safety laws, and from standard business laws in their non-charity business in the marketplace where services are available to the general public and standard fees charged for those services.  In that case, churches are *not* given special ‘respect’ but instead *must* be held to the same rules and standards as every other business.

    In addition, when churches are running non-charity businesses and hiring employees of other faiths, it would be extremely problematic for the government to aid the church by allowing it as a religion a special exemption from standard employee protection and employee benefit laws.  The fact that in this particular case a church claims the benefit in question has a moral dimension is not persuasive; a church could equally well assert it should be exempt from providing its employees with disability insurance because the cause of their injury was God punishing them for immorality or that it should be exempt from providing its employees with unemployment benefits because if they were ‘good’ God would have seen to it they didn’t lose their jobs.  You are asserting that an ‘establishment’ has religious freedom rights which are superior to those of employees, and that the church has the right not just to believe, promote and persuade but also to *impose* its tenets on employees and/or levy a financial penalty on employees to punish them for not following church rules.

     

    And by the way, you may have missed the frequent news reports covering the issue, but over the past several decades the Catholic Church through its ProLife activist arm has actively been promoting laws that will allow the government to single out Planned Parenthood and levy special penalties including an inability to fulfill government contracts because the Church disapproves of its speech and its providing legal services to willing clients.

    I am now hearing a rising tide of agreement from many people for the idea that the government should single out the Catholic Church for special penalties and exclude it from applying to fulfill government contracts due to their disapproval of its speech and its unwilingness to provide legal services to clients who seek them.  Another thing I learned as a child was that ’as you sow, so shall you reap.’

  • colleen

     

    Therefore, they can’t be forced to collaborate with a federal policy that is in contradiction with their religion.

    Sure they can. They can run hospitals that conform to the best practices of modern medicine or they can stop receiving any federal funding (including medicare and medicaid) at their hospitals. They can stop discriminating against the gay and lesbian community and conform to local anti-discrimination laws or get out of the adoption business. They can provide the women who work at their hospitals with adequate health insurance or they can get out of the hospital business.

    I think the Catholic church should fund it’s own ‘good works’ rather than rely on the tax payer. Indeed, considering the Church’s ongoing and well established  mistreatment of both women and children, both in the US and globally, it’s difficult to understand why the Church is funded with taxpayer dollars at all. But it is and to the tune of billions of dollars a year. If the Church wishes to practice what you call ‘speech’  it and you should not expect the rest of us to pay for it. The fact that your argument grants individual rights to institutions and non at all to individual women is really very telling.

    I certainly don’t know you personally, I am trying to avoid that.   Nor did I imply that I did. My comments were to your post, not to your past accounts. We have heard  your parroted arguments and those arguments only work if you pretend that individual women have inferior constitutional rights to those of the Catholic church, the LDS Church, the Southern Baptist Convention etc. This is offensive because when you make this argument you are arguing for a theocratic state. And, no, the US constitution was not written to support a theocratic state and it certainly wasn’t written to support a Catholic theocracy. If y’all want to live in a theocratic state why not move to Vatican city. They have plenty of money.

    That said,  you speak of “principles you (I) have publicly espoused” and pretend I’ve publically espoused ‘open mindedness’ rather than discernment and my own priorities. This is not true.  One of the things the right tends to do is define ‘liberal’ as stupid, credulous and easily confused.  That describes Republican women and, except for ‘pro-life’ trolls, there aren’t many of them here. If you want to talk with women who live down to your stereotypes may I suggest Jill Stanek’s blog or the pews in your church? I work towards exposing and discrediting the RCC, the religious right and the Republican party. I have no obligation to be ‘openminded’ about a theocracy that consigns all women to the status of 2nd class citizens. Indeed, I would be behaving as stupidly as a Republican woman if I bought what you’re selling.

  • give-em-hell-mary

    “For all of you that don’t like what I’m saying, you have come to this point at a bias which allows for little reason. The Catholic church is afforded rights by the Constitution. As are we all. And we want to keep these rights (I hope, although if give em hell Mary has her way, watch out). If we do, we must allow others to have the same rights we have, or we act hypocritically. They are against contraception and abortion. That’s their right under freedom of religion. Therefore, they can’t be forced to collaborate with a federal policy that is in contradiction with their religion.”

    There is nothing fairminded about you attacking me for defending all women’s right not to be throwaway incubators for your pedophile death cult.  Freedom of Religion doesn’t give your child-raping priests the right to kidnap the wombs of sexually active students and employees for their own selfish perversions.  The Constitution doesn’t give priests the special right to medically enslave and abuse women!  Those priests already force us taxpayers to pay for their global overpopulation and human rights abuse clean-ups.  Africa wouldn’t have be decimated by AIDS if condoms were allowed by the RCC.

  • colleen

    Then you should stop wishing for a theocracy. The Catholic church is welcome to tell us what they think and we are welcome to point out that the Catholic heirarchy is wrong.

    I hope to live long enough to see the Church defunded. The USCCB has no business running hospitals and has repeatedly demonstrated that their prorities frequently destroy the lives of women and children. You folks should fund your own ‘good works’ and stop expecting the rest of us to pay for your deserved civil penalties for encouraging, protecting and enabling the systematic sexual, physical and emotional abuse of women and children. There will be many more such penalties before we are done. The abuse that has come to light only scratches the surface and I expect that most conservatives fully understand this, particularly those whose crimes are yet to be exposed.

  • give-em-hell-mary

    “The USCCB has no business running hospitals and has repeatedly demonstrated that their prorities frequently destroy the lives of women and children. You folks should fund your own ‘good works’ and stop expecting the rest of us to pay for your deserved civil penalties for encouraging, protecting and enabling the systematic sexual, physical and emotional abuse of women and children.”

    Bravo!