BISHOP ZUBIK ON LAWSUIT DISMISSAL

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The lawsuit filed by the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Inc. and the Catholic Cemeteries Association of Pittsburgh against the Department of Health and Human Services mandate that threatens religious freedom was “dismissed without prejudice” by U.S. District Judge Terrence F. McVerry on November 27. Bishop David Zubik issued the following statement:

While I am disappointed in the ruling that our lawsuit cannot proceed at this time based on the very narrow argument that we allegedly have no real damages yet from the Health and Human Services mandate, I am very encouraged that it was “dismissed without prejudice.” That means that we have every right to file again in the future.

We will now await in good faith the accommodation to religious freedom that the federal government has claimed it will offer. However, we must all be aware that no modification to the original HHS mandate in regard to religious freedom has yet been made.

Other courts have reached differing conclusions in the challenges to the HHS mandate, so this remains fluid. I do want to make clear, however, that we cannot and will not negotiate away our constitutional rights to religious freedom and religious expression. 

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Bishop Zubik on Federal Lawsuit  

My Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Church of Pittsburgh:

I want to announce to you today that the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Inc. and The Catholic Cemeteries Association of the Diocese of Pittsburgh have filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the February 15, 2012 mandate issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Our lawsuit is one of 12 such lawsuits being filed nationwide today representing 43 separate plaintiffs. Among the others joining in the lawsuit are: the University of Notre Dame, the Diocese of Erie, Franciscan University of Steubenville, the Archdioceses of Washington, New York and St. Louis, Catholic University of America, the Michigan Catholic Conference and Our Sunday Visitor, Inc. We are being represented pro bono in our lawsuit by the law firm of Jones Day. No diocesan funds are being used in our lawsuit.

As you are well aware, we are facing a critical issue for Religious Freedom in the United States. The lawsuit has been filed in our belief that the courts will find that the HHS mandate violates the fundamental rights to Religious Freedom as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

Accompanying this letter you will find a copy of a joint statement I am releasing today on behalf of the Diocese, Catholic Charities and The Catholic Cemeteries Association. You will also find the news release on the topic. This material will also appear in the May 25 issue of the Pittsburgh Catholic and is on the diocesan website at www.diopitt.org.

As noted in the attached statement, we did not pick this fight or this timing. This is the federal government’s choice to impose this on us now. Our goal in filing this lawsuit is to take this issue out of the political arena and turn it over to the courts where we are confident the Religious Freedom and the rights of the Church will be protected.

Thank you for all you do and please keep me in your prayers in this time of significant challenges. 

Grateful for our belief that “Nothing is Impossible with God,” I am,     

Your brother in Christ,   

945

 

 

 

Most Reverend David A. Zubik

Bishop of Pittsburgh                  

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DIOCESE OF PITTSBURGH, CATHOLIC CHARITIES AND

CATHOLIC CEMETERIES ASSOCIATION FILE SUIT AGAINST HHS MANDATE

Pittsburgh – The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Inc. and The Catholic Cemeteries Association of the Diocese of Pittsburgh have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the February 15, 2012 mandate issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in the Western District of Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh Division), is one of 12 filed nationally today representing 43 separate plaintiffs, including 13 Catholic archdioceses and dioceses, charitable organizations, universities, schools and healthcare providers. 

Among the plaintiffs outside of Pittsburgh are the University of Notre Dame, the Diocese of Erie, Franciscan University of Steubenville, the Archdioceses of Washington, New York and St. Louis, Catholic University of America, the Michigan Catholic Conference and Our Sunday Visitor, Inc.

The lawsuits are challenging the HHS mandate that requires religious organizations to provide, pay for and facilitate insurance coverage for services that violate their religious beliefs.

The lawsuit contends that the HHS mandate also unconstitutionally authorizes the federal government to determine which organizations are sufficiently “religious” to warrant an exemption from the requirement.

This lawsuit concludes that the mandate is in violation of the religious liberties guaranteed by the First Amendment, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and other federal laws.

The plaintiffs are represented pro bono by the law firm of Jones Day. No diocesan funds are being used in the lawsuit.       

In a joint statement released today, the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Inc. and The Catholic Cemeteries Association of the Diocese of Pittsburgh stated that “This lawsuit has been filed for a simple reason: the HHS mandate violates the fundamental rights to Religious Freedom as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.”

“Under the HHS mandate, Church-sponsored organizations – everything from hospitals for the sick to soup kitchens that feed the hungry – are required to let the federal government determine which of our beliefs we can follow and which of our beliefs we cannot follow in our services to the community. The only Church-sponsored organizations that would be exempt from the mandate are those that primarily employ Catholics and primarily serve Catholics,” the statement read.

The controversial HHS mandate was proposed in early August 2011 as guidelines to the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The guidelines mandated that by August 2012 all individual and group health insurance plans – including self-insured plans – cover all FDA-approved contraception and sterilization procedures, including drugs that cause abortions.

The only exception to the mandate is for Church-related institutions that primarily employ and serve individuals of their own faith, and whose purpose is instruction in that same faith.

Despite strong concerns raised about the infringement of the mandate on religious freedom by the federal government, it was announced by the Obama administration on January 20, 2012 that the mandate would remain as originally drafted.

Bishop David A. Zubik responded in a column in the Pittsburgh Catholic at that time: “The Obama administration has just told Catholics of the United States, ‘To Hell with you!’”

Though President Obama announced shortly thereafter an “accommodation” to faith-based institutions would be forthcoming, the mandate was formalized unchanged on February 15thand is now the law. However, implementation begins August 2012. For others it has been delayed until August 2013.

“We cannot accept that rather than asking ‘Are you sick?’ and ‘Are you hungry?’ that we must first ask ‘Are you Catholic?’ We help people because we are Catholic, not because they are Catholic,” the joint statement read.

In April, 18 members of Christian Associates of Southwestern Pennsylvania, representing Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant bodies issued their own statement noting, “our deep concern over this mandate does not arise from the varying convictions we have on the moral content of this mandate. The Constitution of the United States guarantees every religious institution and its affiliated bodies the inalienable right to define its own identity and ministries and to practice its own beliefs.”

“We did not pick this fight or this timing,” the joint statement from the Diocese, Catholic Charities and the Catholic Cemeteries Association stated. “The federal government chose to impose this mandate on us now.

“Religious freedom is the cornerstone of every basic human right. Religious freedom means that each of us has the right to pursue truth, embrace it and to shape our lives by it without government coercion.

“This lawsuit is meant to protect that freedom guaranteed to us by the Constitution, not just for Catholics, but for every American,” the joint statement concluded.

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STATEMENT ON THE LAWSUIT FILED TODAY AGAINST FEDERAL

AGENCIES RESPONSIBLE FOR FORMULATING AND ENFORCING

THE HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES MANDATE

           The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Inc. and The Catholic Cemeteries Association of the Diocese of Pittsburgh have filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the February 15, 2012 mandate issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The following is a joint statement on this lawsuit:

The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Inc. and The Catholic Cemeteries Association of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, together with 12 other archdioceses and dioceses representing a total of 43 Church-related organizations, have filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the February 15, 2012 mandate issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Among the others joining in the lawsuit are: the University of Notre Dame, the Diocese of Erie, Franciscan University of Steubenville, the Archdioceses of Washington, New York and St. Louis, Catholic University of America, the Michigan Catholic Conference and Our Sunday Visitor, Inc.

This lawsuit has been filed for a simple reason: the HHS mandate violates the fundamental rights to Religious Freedom as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

Under the HHS mandate, our Church-sponsored organizations – everything from hospitals for the sick to soup kitchens that feed the hungry – are required to let the federal government determine which of our beliefs we can follow and which of our beliefs we cannot follow in our services to the community. The only Church-sponsored organizations that would be exempt from the mandate are those that primarily employ Catholics and primarily serve Catholics.

We simply cannot accept this.

We cannot accept that rather than asking “Are you sick?” and “Are you hungry?” that we must first ask “Are you Catholic?” We help people because we are Catholic, not because they are Catholic.

We cannot accept that we would have to turn people away who want to serve in our institutions because they are not Catholic.

We cannot accept that the federal government has the right to force us to choose between our sacred beliefs or shutting our doors.

The issue at heart here is whether the federal government can force the Church to do something that the Church considers morally and religiously objectionable.

In filing this complaint, we are one of a total of 12 lawsuits nationwide that have been filed representing 12 other archdioceses and dioceses and Church-related organizations totaling 43 separate plaintiffs. We did not pick this fight or this timing. The federal government chose to impose this mandate on us now. This is a level of interference in Religious Freedom that no administration – Democrat or Republican – has ever done before in the history of the United States.

Religious freedom is the cornerstone of every basic human right. Religious freedom means that each of us has the right to pursue the truth, embrace the truth and to shape our lives by the truth without government coercion.

This lawsuit is meant to protect that freedom already guaranteed to us by the Constitution, not just for Catholics, but for every American.  

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