FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 16, 2013
STATEMENT OF JOSEPH ZWILLING REGARDING DECISION BY JUDGE COGAN
The Archdiocese of New York welcomes and applauds Judge Brian Cogan’s thoughtful decision and order that holds that so-called non exempt religious agencies have religious freedom rights, and are therefore not bound by the Affordable Care Act’s requirement to provide in their health insurance plans coverage for contraceptives, abortifacients, and sterilization, as well as counseling as respects these objectionable products and services.
Ruling in favor of all non exempt plaintiffs in the case – ArchCare, Cardinal Spellman and Monsignor Farrell high schools in the Archdiocese of New York, as well as Catholic Health Services of Long Island in the Diocese of Rockville Centre — the court held that the HHS contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The court granted summary judgment and a permanent injunction to these non exempt plaintiffs protecting them from enforcement of the contraceptive mandate.
As part of its ruling, the court dismissed similar claims from the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Rockville Centre, as the court ruled that they were already protected from the contraceptive mandate by virtue of being exempt religious organizations under regulations issued by HHS.
At issue were the final mandate rules promulgated by HHS, which effectively split religious organizations into two classes: those who were protected under a narrow religious exemption – primarily dioceses and houses of worship – and those faith-based health care entities, charitable agencies, religious schools, and other faith-based entities which did not fit into this narrow definition established by the government. As to this second class of faith based organizations, the final rules required these non exempt religious organizations to violate their consciences and cooperate in providing contraceptive coverage by “self certifying” their religious objections thereby triggering their third party plan administrators to provide the contraceptive coverage. In ruling that this self certification and so-called “accommodation” procedure violates federal law, the decision makes clear that these non exempt entities would suffer “injury” because “the Mandate renders them complicit in a scheme aimed at providing coverage to which they have a religious objection.”
The court has correctly cut through the artificial construct which essentially made faith-based organizations other than churches and other houses of worship second class citizens with second class First Amendment protections. Religious freedom is our “First Freedom,” guaranteed in the Constitution of the United States. This decision wisely and properly affirms that this freedom must extend beyond merely being free to choose how we worship, and must include how we act in accord with our religious beliefs.