The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

State News

December 31, 2013

Judge grants N. Ind. diocese injunction

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — A U.S. district judge has granted a preliminary injunction to a northern Indiana diocese banning the federal government from forcing it to pay for birth control in its employee health care plans as required under the federal health care overhaul.

Judge Jon DeGuilio issued a ruling Friday in Fort Wayne granting the injunction to the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, its Catholic charities and other associated groups until the court rules in the case.

The diocese is challenging a compromise 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.

But the diocese argues that the law violates its rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a 1993 law that bans the government from imposing a substantial burden on the exercise of religion for anything other than a compelling government interest pursued in the least restrictive way.

DeGuilio wrote that if the diocese failed to comply with the federal contraception mandate it would have faced "financially devastating fines."

"Thus, plaintiffs will be irreparably harmed if forced to forego their religious beliefs by facilitating access to the objected to services in order to avoid detrimental fines, and there simply is insufficient time to litigate the plaintiffs' claims with the relief of a preliminary injunction," DeGuilio wrote.

He also said that while the buffer provided by the federal government allows the diocese to avoid the costs of paying for the birth control, "it's the facilitation of the objectionable services, not the related cost, that offends their religious beliefs."

He also wrote that the government likely faces no risk of harm because of the preliminary injunction.

The ruling came a week after U.S. District Judge Philip Simon in South Bend rejected a similar request for a preliminary injunction by University of Notre Dame. Simon wrote he doesn't think Notre Dame will succeed in its challenge to the law, prompting Notre Dame to file an appeal.

 

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