Seven states filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration today seeking to overturn the mandate that religious employers provide contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients to their employees as part of their health care plans.
The state attorneys general of Florida, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas filed suit today in U.S. District Court, arguing that the mandate violates both the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. All seven plaintiffs are Republicans.
“Religious liberty is America’s first freedom,” said Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette in a statement e-mailed to LifeSiteNews.com. “Constitutional rights cannot be finessed. Religious liberty cannot be compromised. Any rule, regulation or law that forces faith-based institutions to provide for services that violate their free exercise of religion, or that penalizes them for failing to kneel at the altar of government, is a flat-out violation of the First Amendment.”
Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning said the requirement that religious employers subsidize products that violate their deeply held beliefs – with zero co-pay – “is a threat to every American, regardless of religious faith.”
“We will not stand idly by while our constitutionally guaranteed liberties are discarded by an administration that has sworn to uphold them,” Bruning, who is a candidate for U.S. Senate in Nebraska, said.
The regulation extends the role of the state at the expense of the church, the plaintiffs say. “Government has no business forcing religious institutions and individuals to violate their sincerely held beliefs,” stated Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.
By forcing all employers to do something that contradicts the tenets of their faith and granting an exceptionally narrow religious exemption, the mandate would “leave countless additional religious freedoms vulnerable to government intrusion and negation by coercion,” the legal complaint states.
First Amendment concerns have not been allayed by the minor shift in policy President Obama announced on February 10. “The president’s so-called ‘accommodation’ was nothing but a shell game,” said Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. “The mandate still requires religious organizations to subsidize and authorize conduct that conflicts with their religious principles.”
Their legal complaint adds another objection: After faithful religious employers drop their insurance coverage, state Medicaid rolls will swell – something President Obama promised would not happen when he first proposed his health care legislation.
The rule “will place further stress on Plaintiff States’ Medicaid programs as they inevitably increase reliance on public resources for support.” Growing government dependence will further “threaten budget stability,” the lawsuit holds.
“The unfortunate reality is that many religious organizations will cease to offer health insurance and charities will stop offering services to the less fortunate because of this mandate,” Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said. “This is another example of why ObamaCare is bad policy, and it is another reason why I have joined attorneys general across this county to protect American families from its illegal overreach.”
The seven states are joined by the Catholic Mutual Relief Society of America, Catholic Social Services, Pius X Catholic High School of Lincoln, Nebraska, and two private citizens, one of whom is a nun.
Sister Mary Catherine, CK, is a sister with the School Sisters of Christ the King in Lincoln, Nebraska. Stacy Molai is a missionary with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS). Although Molai suffers “an incurable chronic illness,” she says she will drop her insurance coverage if it provides contraceptives and abortifacients.
Less than two weeks ago, Bruning told LifeSiteNews.com a coalition of state attorneys general would file a lawsuit within “weeks, not months.” Some 13 state AGs had just signed a letter to the Secretaries of the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Treasury, and Labor, stating their opposition to the mandate and noting they stood “prepared to vigorously oppose it in court.”
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has also filed an amicus brief in a lawsuit filed by The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty on behalf of Belmont Abbey College, Colorado Christian College, and the Eternal World Television Network (EWTN) against the new health care rule.