MCC Files Lawsuit
in Response to HHS Mandate
Diocese of Gaylord endorses Michigan Catholic Conference
Lawsuit Against U.S. Government Regarding HHS Mandate
Complaint cites violations of First Amendment rights
The Most Reverend Bernard A. Hebda, Bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord, announced today that the Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) has filed a lawsuit in Federal Court in response to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate requiring employers to include benefits in health coverage plans for contraceptives, sterilization and some abortifacient drugs or procedures. For nearly two years, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and others have been reaching out to the Obama Administration and to Congress in order to find a satisfactory resolution to the mandate without success. The mandate strikes at the very heart of religious liberty that our country was founded upon since it imposes upon faith-based organizations a requirement to violate their religious beliefs and moral values, or to face substantial penalties for non-compliance.
“From the very beginning of our country we’ve respected the right to freedom of religion,” stated Bishop Hebda. “At the moment, that freedom is threatened in a way unlike it has ever been threatened in the past. It’s extremely important that we pursue every avenue we can so that we won’t be subject to this mandate, because we really are not able to comply with the legislation as it now exists.”
The Bishop stressed the importance of pursuing this judicial avenue in tandem with the other efforts that are being made.
“There are many people that see an issue here that really needs to be litigated, certainly those interested in faith matters, but also people who are just interested in the Constitution and in making sure that individual rights are respected,” Bishop Hebda noted. “We need to make sure that our country continues those values that are at the very heart of who we are as Americans.”
The Michigan Catholic Conference, based in Lansing, is the public policy voice for the Catholic Church in Michigan. It also provides health benefits to nearly 10,000 employees within 1,100 Catholic Churches and related institutions in the state. The MCC’s Board of Directors includes the seven arch/diocesan bishops in Michigan, one diocesan priest, a religious sister and five other laypersons.
The Michigan Catholic Conference is uniquely positioned to represent a strong voice for all of those who are morally committed to the separation of Church and State and the freedom to practice religion and we propose to exercise that voice in a unified fashion in this litigation,” stated Patrick Heintz, a lay member of the MCC Board of Directors from Traverse City. “The fundamental principles that we’re standing for are those of the Catholic Church and other religious organizations to be free from the interference from government intrusion.”
According to the MCC complaint: “This lawsuit is about one of America’s most cherished freedoms: the freedom to practice one’s religion without government interference. It is not about whether people have a right to abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception. Those services are freely available in the United States, and nothing prevents the Government itself from making them more widely available. Here, however, the Government seeks to require Plaintiffs – Catholic entities – to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs by providing, paying for, and/or facilitating access to those services.”
The lawsuit was filed today in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, which is where co-plaintiff Franciscan University of Steubenville is located. Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Hilda Solis, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor; and Timothy Geithner, Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, along with their respective agencies, are named as the defendants in the lawsuit.
Michigan Bishops speak about the HHS Mandate and the lawsuit brought by the Michigan Catholic Conference:
For more information, click on the links below or visit www.micatholicconference.org
Materials Regarding MCC Lawsuit
Click on the link below to download or view materials regarding the lawsuit filed this week in U.S. District Court by the Michigan Catholic Conference.
USCCB Materials on Religious Liberty
Click here to learn more about the ongoing activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and efforts to protect religious freedoms.