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Catholic Church Defends Religious Freedom: 12 Federal Lawsuits Filed Against Obama Administration
By Deacon Keith Fournier
May 23rd, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
'The Government seeks to require Plaintiffs - all Catholic entities - to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs by providing, paying for, and/or facilitating access to those products and services. American history and tradition, embodied in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ("RFRA"), safeguard religious entities from such overbearing and oppressive governmental action. Plaintiffs therefore seek relief in this Court to protect this most fundamental of American rights'.
NEW YORK, NY (Catholic Online) - In an action which will make US Church history and shape Church State/ Constitutional Law for years to come, a 62 page Federal Court Complaint was filed by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York and other Catholic institutions, Dioceses and organizations on Monday, May 21, 2012.
It was one of twelve lawsuits filed against the Federal Government of the United States. The Twelve Lawsuits were coordinated by the prestigious power house law firm of Jones Day and strategically filed throughout the United States. The complaints represent 43 dioceses, hospitals, schools and church agencies. They seek declaratory and injunctive relief. They also demand a jury trial.
The introductory paragraph of the complaint filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, summarizes the fundamental legal issue, "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-all Catholic entities-to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs by providing, paying for, and/or facilitating access to those products and services. American history and tradition, embodied in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ("RFRA"), safeguard religious entities from such overbearing and oppressive governmental action. Plaintiffs therefore seek relief in this Court to protect this most fundamental of American rights."
As a constitutional lawyer, I can affirm that these are extraordinarily well drafted Federal Lawsuits. The New York Complaint can be read in its entirety here. I am further convinced that these lawsuits will be successful. The actions of this Administration are unconstitutional.
In effect, the Plaintiffs ask the Federal Courts to declare that the questionable provisions of the Affordable Care Act and the HHS Mandate are unconstitutional and then to enjoin or prohibit the Government from enforcing those provisions of the Law and the regulations. They further ask for Attorneys fees and costs.
The President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, said of the lawsuits, "We have tried negotiation with the Administration and legislation with the Congress - and we'll keep at it - but there's still no fix. Time is running out, and our valuable ministries and fundamental rights hang in the balance, so we have to resort to the courts now."
"Though the Conference is not a party to the lawsuits, we applaud this courageous action by so many individual dioceses, charities, hospitals and schools across the nation, in coordination with the law firm of Jones Day. It is also a compelling display of the unity of the Church in defense of religious liberty."
"It's also a great show of the diversity of the Church's ministries that serve the common good and that are jeopardized by the mandate - ministries to the poor, the sick, and the uneducated, to people of any faith or no faith at all."
As an alumni of Franciscan University of Steubenville, (1977) I was thrilled to see that wonderful College participating in these historic legal proceedings. I spoke to the President of Franciscan University, Fr Terrence Henry, TOR about the lawsuits. He asked me, "Deacon Keith, who would have thought that we would be in a position to have to file a federal court lawsuit against our own government?"
Fr Terence continued, "We must end this unconstitutional coercion by Government officials. If we concede to this we will be in the situation of the Church in China which has to clear everything with the Government! We cannot and we will not back down. This fight is for future generations. We need a climate of freedom for the Church in this country."
I agreed wholeheartedly! I also encouraged this wonderful priest and College president in his heroic effort. He reminded me, "Deacon, I was history teacher. I am reminded today of the five volume set on World War II. One of the books was called "The Hinge of Fate". We are at a similar time in our own Nation. There is a hinge of history involved here. The Hinge of the Door of our future can swing either to totalitarianism or freedom. We must make sure - for future generations - that it swings to Freedom."
I told Father Terence - and I remind our readers - there is a silver lining in this cloud. This egregious HHS Mandate came one day after Pope Benedict XVI addressed a group of US Bishops during their visit. He warned them of the growth of radical secularism in the United States and the accompanying threats to the fundamental Right to Religious Freedom so integral to the American experiment.
The HHS action has prompted a tide of resistance and a movement of solidarity which is strengthening the Catholic Church in America. She is rising up like a sleeping giant and being strengthened in adversity. Her response is also inspiring other Christians, other people of faith and all people of good will to defend America's First Freedom, religious freedom. This is one more example of how God, in His infinite mercy and love, can pull good even out of what it was intended for evil.
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