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Judge blocks ‘contraception mandate’ for Catholic diocese plaintiffs

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A federal judge in Fort Wayne has blocked enforcement of the “contraception mandate” for numerous health care providers in a lawsuit brought by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. The ruling could impact more than 10,000 people eligible for benefits through a number of diocese-related organizations.

District Court Judge Jon DeGuilio of the Northern District of Indiana granted a temporary injunction blocking the mandate contained in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The litigation is Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend Inc., et al. v. Kathleen Sebelius, et al., 1:12-CV-159.

The diocese and its affiliated plaintiffs – Catholic Charities; Saint Anne Home & Retirement Community; Franciscan Alliance, Inc.; Specialized Physicians of Illinois, LLC; University of Saint Francis; and Our Sunday Visitor, Inc. – claim the mandate violates their religious liberties under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The order notes Franciscan employs about 8,700 benefits-eligible workers; the diocese employs about 1,000 who participate in a health plan; Specialty Physicians, Saint Francis and Our Sunday Visitor each have more than 300 benefits-eligible employees; Saint Anne Home has 220 insurance-eligible workers; and Catholic Charities has a few dozen.

In granting the injunction, DeGuilio ruled, “plaintiffs have shown that their RFRA claim stands a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits, that irreparable harm will result without adequate remedy absent an injunction, and that the balance of harms favors protecting the religious-liberty rights of the plaintiffs.”

The ruling Friday came just days after another judge in the Northern District rejected a suit refiled by the University of Notre Dame that sought to block third-party providers who would provide contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

The mandate has divided federal circuit courts and currently is before the Supreme Court of the United States.

DeGuilio’s order noted the injunction was granted ahead of motions to dismiss and summary judgment motions “in an effort to prevent the possibility of any unjust enforcement of the contraception mandate against plaintiffs come the first of the year.”

The ruling states, “there are certainly other ways to promote public health and gender equality less burdensome on religious liberty, and the government has not carried its burden of demonstrating that it cannot achieve its policy goals in ways less damaging to religious-exercise rights.”

Employees might not share the diocese’s views on contraception and abortion, the ruling notes. “(T)he plaintiffs’ employees and the public are best served if the plaintiffs can continue to provide needed (and expected) religiously based community services, and the needed (and expected) insurance coverage to its employees, without the threat of substantial fines and the risk of layoffs for noncompliance with the contraception mandate and its accommodation,” DeGuilio wrote.

 

 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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