Published January 13, 2015
A federal judge said he doesn't think the University of Notre Dame will succeed in its challenge to a federal health care law requirement that it provide students and employee health plans that cover birth control.
U.S. District Judge Philip Simon on Friday rejected the Catholic school's request for an injunction, prompting Notre Dame to file an appeal Monday to the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.
School spokesman Paul Browne said Monday that Notre Dame was disappointed by Simon's ruling, but was determined to press forward with the lawsuit it filed earlier this month.
"We continue to believe that the challenged mandate is an impermissible infringement on Notre Dame's religious rights," he said.
The lawsuit challenges a compromise in the Affordable Health Care Act offered by the Obama administration that attempted to create a buffer for religiously affiliated hospitals, universities and social service groups that oppose birth control. The law requires insurers or the health plan's outside administrator to pay for birth control coverage and creates a way to reimburse them.
Notre Dame contends that the law violates its freedom to practice religion without government interference. The Rev. John Jenkins, Notre Dame's president, has said that the government's accommodations would require Notre Dame to forfeit its rights, "to facilitate and become entangled in a program inconsistent with Catholic teaching and to create the impression that the university cooperates with and condones activities incompatible with its mission."
Simon wrote that the government is authorizing the third party to pay for the contraception, not Notre Dame.
"Notre Dame wants to eat its cake, and have it still, at the expense of Congress, administrative agencies, and the employees who will be affected," Simon wrote. "Notre Dame is free to opt out of providing the coverage itself, but it can't stop anyone else from providing it."
Simon wrote that he doesn't believe there are any financial burdens placed on Notre Dame because of the new law, and said the law does not require the university "to modify its own behavior." Simon also questioned why Notre Dame waited until December to file the lawsuit when the regulations were published in July, then waited another six days after filing the lawsuit to seek a preliminary injunction.