Notre Dame University is joining the Roman Catholic dioceses, schools, and institutions, suing President Barack Obama’s administration over the government mandate on health care and birth control coverage.
New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan said, “We have tried negotiation with the administration and legislation with the Congress, and we'll keep at it, but there's still no fix.”
He told Huffington Post, “Time is running out, and our valuable ministries and fundamental rights hang in the balance, so we have to resort to the courts now.”
Father John Jenkins, President, University of Notre Dame said, “This filing is about the freedom of a religious organization to live its mission, and its significance goes well beyond any debate about contraceptives.”
Among those suing the administration are University of Notre Dame, the Archdioceses of Washington, New York, and Michigan, and the Catholic University of America. Although other colleges and institutions had already filed, observers had been waiting to see what Notre Dame’s next step would be.
In the past, the college has shown willingness to work with President Obama. In fact, in 2009 the Catholic University came under fire from US bishops after they invited the President to give the commencement speech and presented him with an honorary law degree.
However, this new situation seems to have changed their relationship.
President Barack Obama announced the mandate on health care and birth control coverage in January. Last year, the advisory panel from the Institute of Medicine recommended the inclusion of birth control on the list of covered services.
When faith leaders across different religions protested, Obama offered to soften the rule so that insurers pay for birth control, but this does not go far enough for religious groups.
Notre Dame’s President Jenkins said, in a statement released on Monday, “We do not seek to impose our religious beliefs on others; we simply ask that the Government not impose its values on the University when those values conflict with our religious teachings.”
He says the mandate violates religious freedom by requiring many religiously affiliated hospitals, schools and charities to comply.
Jenkins said the lawsuit would make it impossible for [Catholic institutions] to plan for “and implement any changes to our health plans by the government-mandated deadlines.”
He added, “We have filed this lawsuit neither lightly nor gladly, but with sober determination.”
Erin Shields, spokeswoman for Health and Human Services said the department will not comment on the lawsuit.