Category Archives: Contraception

Cardinal Newman Society Thanks USCCB for Standing Against the HHS Mandate

The Cardinal Newman Society today thanked Cardinal Timothy Dolan and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for pointing out the ways in which the Feb. 1, 2013, proposed rules from the Department of Health and Human Services still fail to address core concerns with the sterilization/contraception/abortion mandate of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Catholics are left no choice but to oppose the mandate and will be comforted and strengthened by the support and leadership of the nation’s Catholic bishops.

The current movement toward defining first-class religious institutions of Catholic education, Catholic health care, and Catholic charity as second-class institutions is unacceptable.  The Cardinal Newman Society stands at the ready to continue supporting the efforts of Catholic educational institutions to protect their God given Catholic identity and religious liberty.

The Cardinal Newman Society will continue encouraging its members to  pray for our bishops and all American citizens engaged in the struggle to uphold our constitutionally protected religious rights.

U.S. Bishops to Administration: HHS Proposal Falls Short

While the U.S. Bishops acknowledge that the Administration’s proposed Health and Human Services’ rule demonstrates some movement, they officially said that the “accommodation” falls short of addressing their concerns, a statement released today said.

“Throughout the past year, we have been assured by the Administration that we will not have to refer, pay for, or negotiate for the mandated coverage. We remain eager for the Administration to fulfill that pledge and to find acceptable solutions—we will affirm any genuine progress that is made, and we will redouble our efforts to overcome obstacles or setbacks,” said Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), in the statement. “Thus, we welcome and will take seriously the Administration’s invitation to submit our concerns through formal comments, and we will do so in the hope that an acceptable solution can be found that respects the consciences of all. At the same time, we will continue to stand united with brother bishops, religious institutions, and individual citizens who seek redress in the courts for as long as this is necessary.”

Cardinal Dolan listed three key areas of concern: the narrow understanding of a religious ministry; compelling church ministries to fund and facilitate services such as contraceptives, including abortion-inducing drugs, and sterilization that violate Catholic teaching; and disregard of the conscience rights of for-profit business owners. These are the same concerns articulated by the USCCB Administrative Committee in its March 2012 statement, United for Religious Freedom.

Cardinal Dolan said the new proposal seemed to address one part of the church’s concern over the definition of a church ministry but stressed that “the Administration’s proposal maintains its inaccurate distinction among religious ministries.”

“It appears to offer second-class status to our first-class institutions in Catholic health care, Catholic education and Catholic charities,” said Cardinal Dolan. “HHS offers what it calls an ‘accommodation’ rather than accepting the fact that these ministries are integral to our church and worthy of the same exemption as our Catholic churches.”

Cardinal Dolan also highlighted problems with the proposed “accommodation.”

“It appears that the government would require all employees in our ‘accommodated’ ministries to have the illicit coverage—they may not opt out, nor even opt out for their children—under a separate policy,” he said.

He also noted that “because of gaps in the proposed regulations, it is still unclear how directly these separate policies would be funded by objecting ministries, and what precise role those ministries would have in arranging for these separate policies. Thus, there remains the possibility that ministries may yet be forced to fund and facilitate such morally illicit activities.”

Cardinal Dolan also said the proposal refuses to acknowledge conscience rights of business owners who operate their businesses according to their faith and moral values.

“In obedience to our Judeo-Christian heritage, we have consistently taught our people to live their lives during the week to reflect the same beliefs that they proclaim on the Sabbath,” Cardinal Dolan said. “We cannot now abandon them to be forced to violate their morally well-informed consciences.”

Religious Liberty Groups Disappointed with HHS Mandate Rule

The Obama Administration today floated proposed rules to attempt to alleviate religious concerns about the Health and Human Services’ contraceptive mandate under the Affordable Care Act.

The administration tried to put a positive spin on the accommodation. The 80-page proposal attempts to simplify and expand the existing definition of a “religious employer” by creating accommodations for non-profit organizations who self-certify as religious organizations that have an objection to providing contraceptive coverage.

According to the proposal, employees of, or students at exempted organizations could still receive contraceptive services, such as sterilization, contraception, and drugs that cause abortion, through a separate, individual insurance provider. As described by Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, deputy director of policy and regulation with the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, costs would be paid by the issuer.

“No federal funds or employer dollars will be used to fund contraceptive coverage,” said Brooks-LaSure. “The services are paid for through a reduction in user fees from the federally-funded exchange.”

“Under the proposed rule, no non-profit organization will be force to pay for, or provide contraceptive services,” said Brooks-LaSure. “Universities, hospitals, and charities won’t have to arrange, contract, provide, or refer for contraceptives.”

Religious liberty, legal, and advocacy groups, however, were universally disappointed with the proposal.

“Religious institutions who are not primarily in the business of spreading the faith – likely hospitals, schools, etc. – can have the exemption after a complicated ‘self-certification’ procedure, but their employees and students will get free contraception without their employers’ input – under separate policies issued directly from the insurance company,” said Helen Alvare in a statement made through the organization Women Speak for Themselves.

“We are extremely dissatisfied with this inadequate proposal,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which has filed numerous lawsuits on behalf of Catholic dioceses, universities, and family-owned businesses to protect their religious liberty.

“The proposal has nothing to do with the millions of family businesses or business owners who are having their rights violated,” said Duncan. “It does nothing to change the scope of, or broaden, the religious employer exemption, and it offers no concrete guidelines for how self-funded entities are to avoid the requirements of the mandate that violate their consciences. Even those who qualify for the accommodation will have concerns about remaining conduits for drugs and devices that raise the same kind of conscience-problems that have been there all along.”

“The document proposes three different proposals,” said Duncan. “The document provides no concrete guidance for self-insured entities, and the administration has made it clear that for-profit organizations, such as Hobby Lobby, have no religious claims to make with respect to the mandate.”

“In this proposed rule, it appears that Catholic schools and colleges may not be required to provide the mandatory insurance directly, but insurance companies will nevertheless provide the immoral coverage to employees and students,” said The Cardinal Newman Society in a press statement released today.  “This is an accounting gimmick that serves the Obama administration’s radical goal of forcing such coverage on all Americans, except those who are employed by houses of worship.  The Administration continues to violate Americans’ freedom with an absurdly narrow view of constitutionally protected religious activity.

“Religious freedom will not be protected until every organization, business and individual is exempted from purchasing or otherwise financially supporting insurance for sterilization, contraception or abortion.”

Statement of The Cardinal Newman Society on Proposed HHS Rule

The Cardinal Newman Society today released the following statement:

The Obama administration today proposed a rule responding to serious concerns that its policy mandating insurance coverage of sterilization and contraception (including drugs that cause abortion) violates religious freedom.  While the outcry of religious leaders, organizations, employers and faithful Americans has been clear and unambiguous, the Obama administration has barely made a move toward a more just policy.  The mandate is still unacceptable, and the newly proposed “accommodation” is inadequate.

Catholics are left no choice but to stand firmly opposed to the mandate.  We are grateful especially to the Catholic bishops, the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty for their leadership and for continuing the fight to defend the religious freedom of Catholics and all Americans.  We pray for them and stand with them in this fight.

It is important to note that the proposed rule is just that: a proposal.  The final rule could be dramatically different, and there will be powerful opposition from many parties.

In this proposed rule, it appears that Catholic schools and colleges may not be required to provide the mandatory insurance directly, but insurance companies will nevertheless provide the immoral coverage to employees and students.  This is an accounting gimmick that serves the Obama administration’s radical goal of forcing such coverage on all Americans, except those who are employed by houses of worship.  The Administration continues to violate Americans’ freedom with an absurdly narrow view of constitutionally protected religious activity.

Religious freedom will not be protected until every organization, business and individual is exempted from purchasing or otherwise financially supporting insurance for sterilization, contraception or abortion.

Federal Government Could Exempt Some College Student Health Plans

Inside Higher Education is reporting of an unexpected proposal by the Department of Health and Human Services that will allow student health plans self-funded by colleges to qualify as “minimum essential coverage” under the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) requirement that individual Americans must participate in a qualified health plan. The proposed regulation would exempt such plans from the requirements imposed on other student health plans. The proposal would affect only about 30 private and public research universities that self-fund their student health insurance plans.

The article by Doug Lederman, points out that some consumer advocates are concerned that additional institutions may seek to self-fund their plans as a way to avoid new requirements.

“Without federal protections and only minimal state oversight, self-funded plans are free to discriminate based on preexisting conditions, offer limited coverage with low annual limits on benefits, and commit a number of consumer abuses that the ACA was designed to eliminate,” said a health care advocacy group report issued last summer.

Observers, however, don’t feel that’s very likely.

“If a university is currently buying or contributing to a student insurance plan, they might decide to self-fund,” said Matt Bowman, senior legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom. “A lot of schools don’t feel the need to fund a student plan.”

In fact, some schools, such as Franciscan University of Steubenville, in response to the ACA and HHS’ contraceptive mandate, decided to drop its requirement that students purchase insurance coverage.

“In mid-April, Franciscan sent a letter to parents and students, informing them that with the threat of the HHS mandate looming and the immediate cost to students rising rapidly, it would no longer require students to have health insurance,” a May 23 Franciscan University of Steubenville statement said. “Because of that, the letter went on to explain, it would also no longer be able to offer students the option of purchasing health insurance through the University.”

According to the Inside Higher Education article, the federal government’s proposal would affect many of the Ivy League institutions and the University of California system which operate self-funded student health plans.

Vita Institute Extends Application Deadline

The Vita Institute – a scholarship funded opportunity for participants to learn about the fundamentals of human life issues at the highest academic level – has extended its application deadline until March 1, 2013.

Held on the University of Notre Dame campus, Vita participants receive instruction by and engagement with premier faculty, discussion with fellow Vita Institute participants, and introduction to community outreach programs. Instruction is provided on life issues from the perspectives of biology, philosophy, theology, law, psychology, and the social sciences. The annual Institute is being held June 9-21, 2013. The Institute is funded by the Notre Dame Fund to Protect Human Life and Project Guadalupe.

Applicants are required to hold a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent, and applications are welcome from those of any age or level of professional development who are passionately committed to the protection of human life, particularly in its earliest stages. A distinctly Catholic educational program, the Vita Institute welcomes participants of all faith traditions.

Applicants are competing for a limited number of seats. The inaugural 2011 Institute had 28 participants. The 2011 Vita Institute faculty included Charles Rice, David Solomon, Maureen Condic, William McGurn, Elizabeth Kirk, Charles Kenny, Fr. Kevin Flannery, and Fr. Michael Sherwin, among others. Jeanne Monahan, the new president of the March for Life, is a 2012 alumna of the Institute.

Those interested in submitting an application and the necessary letters of recommendation have until March 1, and can find the application here. As part of the Institute, participants are provided: a full tuition waiver, private lodging, specified meals, and curricular materials. Participants are responsible for travel to and from the Institute.

Judge Dismisses CUA’s HHS Challenge on Timing Grounds

Another challenge to the Department of Health and Human Services contraceptive mandate has been dismissed by a federal judge who decided that it’s too early to hear the lawsuit as the Obama administration has promised changes to the mandate to satisfy concerns about religious freedom.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, a President Barack Obama appointee, dismissed the case filed by The Archdiocese of Washington, The Catholic University of America, Consortium of Catholic Academies, Archbishop Carroll High School, and Catholic Charities of D.C. reportedly saying, “If after the new regulations are issued, plaintiffs are still not satisfied, any challenges that they choose to bring will be substantially different from the challenges in the current complaint.”

The Affordable Care Act requires that employer-supplied health-care plans cover contraception. The archdiocese and 42 other Catholic organizations, including the University of Notre Dame and The Catholic University of America, filed lawsuits last year arguing that the mandate violates freedom of religion guaranteed in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Religious nonprofits have not been forced by the government to violate their conscience yet because the Obama administration  extended a “safe harbor” clause to religious non-profits that delayed enforcement of the mandate on them until at least after Aug. 1.

“While  we are disappointed by the decision, we are not discouraged in the   least because the judge based her dismissal solely on procedural  grounds; she  did not rule nor make any judgments on the merits of our  case,” a Catholic University spokesperson told The Washington Times.

The University of Notre Dame recently saw its lawsuit dismissed on similar grounds. Belmont Abbey College saw its lawsuit dismissed late last year only to see an appellate court reinstate it. Many expect the Administration to announce a change to the mandate in coming months.

There have been over 44 lawsuits against the mandate and over 130 plaintiffs.

Notre Dame Professor Defends HHS Mandate

University of Notre Dame law and theology professor Cathleen Kaveny wrote in Commonweal Magazine that the Obama administration is not attacking religious liberty with its HHS mandate and any attempt by the bishops to say otherwise is a “canard.”

Kaveny takes the bishops to task for opposing the mandate and writes that the USCCB’s criticism “is rooted in a mistaken assumption about how our law operates” and that the mandate “makes sense in our pluralistic society.”

…the HHS regulations must balance the religious-liberty interests of all employers against the legitimate expectations of employees and the government’s public health goals. In organizations that have been completely exempted from the mandate—such as parishes and dioceses—employees are more likely to share, or at least accept, the moral views of their employers. Consequently, it will not seem unfair to deny access to treatments that are inconsistent with an employer’s religious views. Nor will it greatly affect the public health objectives of the law, assuming this class of beneficiaries is less likely to use contraception even if it were freely available.

But many Catholic institutions, such as hospitals and colleges, employ and serve non-Catholics. Initially, these institutions did not qualify for any exemption. But in response to criticism from the bishops and others, HHS created a second category of exemption, “to accommodate non-exempt, nonprofit religious organizations.”

Doesn’t this sort of accommodation make sense in our pluralistic society? HHS emphasizes that the different treatment accorded these religious organizations does not imply that the second group is less religious than the first. Instead, HHS recognizes that the employees in the second group likely have different needs and different values than those in the first group. The vast majority of Americans (including most Catholics) think the use of contraception can be a way of fulfilling their moral obligations, not betraying them.

The bishops rightly note that faith-based employers have a religious-liberty interest at stake in the mandate. They sometimes forget, however, that the employees of these institutions also have religious-liberty interests.

Kaveny writes that she finds the suggestion by The Catholic Health Association to broaden the total exemption category to include religiously sponsored hospitals and universities while providing contraceptives under another government program is “attractive” but she makes it clear that she rejects the “canard” that the mandate is a cynical attack on religious institutions.

This is hardly the first time that Kaveny has undercut the bishops on important issues. In October of last year in the weeks leading up to the election, Kaveny undercut the strongly stated positions of a number of bishops who warned Catholics against voting for gay “marriage” and abortion-rights supporting politicians.

Kaveny was quoted in the heterodox National Catholic Reporter at the time saying, “I don’t know if they can say this has to be the priority that you’re voting on … without any consideration of what the alternatives are and how likely electing someone is to actually make those things happen.”

Judge Dismisses HHS Case from Colorado Christian University

Timing is everything. Once again, the federal government has been successful in having a lawsuit dismissed on the grounds that it is not ripe for review as the Obama administration has, once again, waved a promise to issue new regulations to accommodate religious objections to the HHS mandate.

The Christian university, which was the first inter-denominational college to file suit against the HHS mandate, falls under the safe harbor provision which reportedly delays enforcement of the mandate against it until next year. When the University filed the lawsuit, CCU President Bill Armstrong called the HHS mandate an “unparalleled attack” on religious freedom.

Eric Baxter, an attorney for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty which is representing the University, told The Cardinal Newman Society that CCU is still considering its options for an appeal. But there’s a precedent for hope as Belmont Abbey College, a Catholic college in North Carolina, saw its lawsuit dismissed on similar grounds last year but recently an appellate court reinstated the case.

Baxter did add, however, that the “burden is now on the government to come up with a rule that will relieve the burden on religious freedom as they have promised to do.”

Reportedly, the government has indicated that there will be some announcement about that in March. “We remain skeptical,” said Baxter. “But now we wait to see what the government does.”

WaPo Columnist Attacks Notre Dame, Catholic Church

Washington Post reporter Michael Leahy won’t be rooting for The University of Notre Dame in their national championship game versus Alabama tonight. Why? The answer isn’t the players, the coaches or the matchups. It’s because of abortion, birth control, and the University’s lawsuit against the HHS mandate.

In what can only be classified as one of the most outrageous attacks on The University of Notre Dame and The Catholic Church, the Washington Post published a column by reporter Michael Leahy offering reasons that Catholics shouldn’t root for Notre Dame. Leahy, who is not above name-calling accuses the Church and the University for being “dogmatic, frustrating change and stifling dissent” as well as a being a “nag.”

He writes:

But our coolness toward Notre Dame also reflected fissures within the Catholic Church, cracks widening to this day over birth control, abortion rights and the broader matter of whether any dissent — particularly tough questions of the Vatican — will be tolerated by the Catholic hierarchy.

And to this day, Notre Dame remains a political and social battleground for American Catholics. The university’s invitation for President Obama to deliver the 2009 commencement address became a national controversy, with conservative Catholics opposing the president’s positions on abortion rights and stem-cell research. And last year, the university filed suit against the federal government, seeking to overturn a requirement in Obama’s health-care law that employers offer insurance plans including contraception coverage — a move that more politically moderate church members resented, concerned that Notre Dame would seek to deprive women, Catholic or not, of such coverage…

Add the consternation over the school’s effort to impose its views of contraception on non-Catholics under the health-care law, and it is easier to understand the ambivalence today about Notre Dame, both the institution and its gilded team.

In such instances, Fighting Irish certitude looks like censorship, and the university becomes an apt symbol of the church that guides it — dogmatic, frustrating change and stifling dissent…

In its defense, the university can point to the graduation rate of its football players — it’s the highest among the big teams in the nation, and this is the first time that the leader in graduation is also tops in the polls — as evidence that the school has its priorities in order. This seems to be Notre Dame’s lasting, self-imposed role in sports: the earnest ethicist, the dogged standard-maker, the nag —  much like the church felt to me in my youth.

Terence Jeffrey writes more about this outrageous column at CNS News.

Tom Monaghan Wins Against HHS Mandate

A federal court in Michigan has reportedly ruled that the founder of Ave Maria University Tom Monaghan may exclude contraception from his employees’ insurance coverage in his personal property management company Domino’s Farms.

Still uncertain is whether Ave Maria, which is also suing the federal government over the HHS mandate, will be exempted as well.

The Michigan court order granted a temporary moratorium on religious grounds for Domino’s Farms — a privately held company headed by Monaghan.

The court order said that forcing Monaghan to choose between his conscience and heavy financial fines is an infringement of his First Amendment rights and “constitutes irreparable injury.”

Monaghan had previously said that the law violates his constitutional rights, and he believed that the mandate “attacks and desecrates a foremost tenet of the Catholic Church” against contraception, sterilization or abortion and that it will “force individuals to violate their deepest held religious beliefs.”

Sotomayor Denies Request to Block HHS Mandate Implementation

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor reportedly denied a request from the Christian-owned Hobby Lobby Stores to block enforcement of the HHS mandate that requires employers to provide insurance coverage for abortifacients.

Hobby Lobby Stores argued that the mandate violates the religious beliefs of its owners.

In her opinion, Sotomayor wrote that Hobby Lobby’s argument did not meet the legal standard for blocking the requirement on an emergency basis. She did say, however, that the company’s lawsuit may continue in the lower courts.

Company officials say they must decide whether to violate their faith or pay exorbitant fines if they ignore the law.

Several Catholic colleges are suing the administration on similar grounds that the mandate violates religious liberty including The University of Notre Dame, Aquinas College, The Catholic University of America, Belmont Abbey College, Ave Maria University, The Franciscan University of Steubenville and the University of St. Francis.

Weigel’s Strategy to Secure Religious Freedom

The battle over the HHS mandate is “the most serious confrontation between the Church and the federal government in U.S. history” according to Catholic author George Weigel. And he adds that there’s reason to believe that the Catholic Church is winning.

But the outcome is far from assured, he writes in the conservative magazine National Review. Weigel lays out his five point strategy for the Church to secure religious freedom:

1. The first thing to keep firmly in mind is that the mandate is just that — an arbitrary regulation implementing the Obamacare law, not a regulation statutorily required by that legislation. The mandate can be rescinded by future regulatory action; the mandate would have been rescinded had the 2012 election turned out differently; the administration could rescind it now, if it chose; a future administration could rescind it. Despite the Supreme Court’s June 2012 decision in NFIB v. Sebelius and the president’s reelection, the mandate is not set in legal concrete, now or in the future.

2. If the mandate is not a settled matter, neither is the extent of the safe-harbor period. If the administration chose, it could extend the safe harbor beyond August 1, 2013, and broaden it to include for-profit employers — and if it really intended no burden on Catholic employers, it would do so, until such time as the courts settled the matter of the mandate’s legality. Still, absent such unlikely action from an administration that has always seemed determined to bring the Catholic Church (and other institutions of civil society) to heel, the “safe harbor” can be extended and broadened legislatively: as part of budget negotiations between the House of Representatives and the White House, or by a denial of appropriations to enforce the mandate. There is strong sentiment against the mandate in the House of Representatives, and effective ways should be found to bring that sentiment to bear, quickly, on an extension of the safe harbor, which would bring at least temporary relief to those institutions and employers that now face difficult decisions about compliance.

3. From the outset of the controversy, the U.S. bishops have taken the correct constitutional and legal position that the HHS mandate is an unjust infringement of the rights of both Church institutions and employers with conscientious objections to providing insurance coverage for “services” they deem morally objectionable. It is imperative that this both/and approach be maintained until a legal victory is achieved. Thus the bishops must firmly reject any Obama administration attempt to split the opposition by providing an “accommodation” for religious institutions while insisting that the mandate applies to lay employers with religiously informed conscientious objections. Any agreement to such an “accommodation” would not only undercut the legal case being pursued; it would do grave damage to the bishops’ teaching authority and capacity for future pastoral leadership.

4. Absent an extension of the safe-harbor period and a broadening of its scope, there are no easy answers to the dilemmas faced by those with conscientious objections who are now required, or soon will be, to comply with the mandate. Interim tactics to address these dilemmas will likely be suggested by Church leaders or theologians or both. Any such interim tactics cannot concede the principle that the mandate is unjust and illegal; ought not establish irreversible practices or precedents; and must not undercut the larger strategic goal of defeating the mandate at law.

5. Given the 2012 election results, the most promising route to final victory in this contest lies through the federal courts. It is entirely possible, indeed probable, that a judicial consensus holding that the mandate is a clear violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act will form in 2013 — a consensus that will likely support relief for both Church institutions and for-profit employers. Thus it is imperative that great care should be taken to avoid undermining the prospects for a satisfactory judicial resolution of the matter — either by public discussion of potential “deals” to be made with the administration, or by the imprudent airing of interesting but abstract theological questions that will inevitably be interpreted by the media and the public, and may be interpreted by the administration and the courts, as an attempt to justify a way out of the current conflict or, worse, to legitimate a surrender under duress. This is a legal and political battle, not a university seminar in moral theology, and it must be approached as such.

Please read his entire piece at National Review.

Belmont Abbey President: Christmas Came Early

In a statement released to The Cardinal Newman Society concerning an appellate court’s decision to reinstate Belmont Abbey College’s case against the HHS mandate, College President Dr. William Thierfelder said:

Christmas came early this year! The D.C. Circuit Federal Court of Appeals’ ruling is a major victory for Belmont Abbey College in its challenge to the HHS mandate. The two concessions made by the government lawyers in court to never enforce the current mandate against Belmont Abbey College and to publish a proposed new rule by the end of the first quarter in 2013, are the answers to our prayers. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty has done an extrodinary job in defending us and I most grateful for Kyle Duncan’s masterful presentation to the court.

The court not only reinstated Belmont Abbey’s lawsuit but is also holding the government to promises it made in court to “never enforce [the mandate] in its current form” against Belmont Abbey College as well as publish a proposed new rule in the first quarter of 2013.

Wheaton College, an evangelical institution, is a co-plaintiff on the case.

A Win for Religious Liberty: Belmont Abbey Suit Reinstated!

Today a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. handed Belmont Abbey College and Wheaton College — and all religious colleges — a major victory in their challenges to the HHS mandate. Earlier this year, two lower courts had dismissed the Colleges’ cases as premature but today, an appellate court reinstated those cases. The Cardinal Newman Society and 15 Catholic colleges recommended in The Newman Guide had joined in an amicus brief supporting Belmont Abbey and Wheaton.

Belmont Abbey College was the first to sue the Obama administration over the HHS mandate last year. Following a setback in which a judge, an Obama appointee, dismissed the College’s case because the Obama administration had not yet amended regulations to better reflect religious objections as it has promised to do, Belmont Abbey College went back to court Friday. Not only did the court reinstate the case, but it also ordered the Obama administration to report back every 60 days—starting in mid-February—until the Administration makes good on its promise to issue a new rule that protects the Colleges’ religious freedom. The new rule must be issued by March 31, 2013.

The Obama administration had created a so-called “safe harbor” to delay enforcement against non-profit religious organizations while the government “considered” some future “accommodation,” leading two lower courts to dismiss Belmont Abbey and Wheaton College’s lawsuits as premature. Some suspected this was a delay tactic to push any decisions on this volatile issue until after the election.

“The D.C. Circuit has now made it clear that government promises and press conferences are not enough to protect religious freedom,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, in a press release. “The court is not going to let the government slide by on non-binding promises to fix the problem down the road.”

“This is a win not just for Belmont Abbey and Wheaton, but for all religious non-profits challenging the mandate,” said Duncan. “The government has now been forced to promise that it will never enforce the current mandate against religious employers like Wheaton and Belmont Abbey and a federal appellate court will hold the government to its word.”