The Archdiocese of New York
applauded a judge's decision Monday that so-called non-exempt religious groups are not bound by the Affordable Care Act's requirement to provide, in their health care insurance plans, coverage for contraceptives and other birth control options.
In a statement, Archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling called Brooklyn Federal Court Judge Brian Cogan's ruling a "thoughtful decision" and that non-exempt Catholic health and educational organizations "have religious freedom rights."
Cogan barred the government from enforcing the mandate against Catholic Health Care System, Catholic Health Services of Long Island, Cardinal Spellman High School and Monsignor Farrell High School.
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The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York and the health and educational groups challenged the mandate on religious freedom grounds. The U.S. issued a rule exempting the archdiocese later, but schools and health-care affiliates were still subject to the law, which takes effect Jan. 1.
Cogan wrote: The groups "have demonstrated that the mandate, despite accommodation, compels them to perform acts that are contrary to their religion… And there can be no doubt that the coercive pressure here is substantial."
Groups that don’t comply with the mandate are subject to fines of $100 a day per affected beneficiary, Cogan said.
Catholic Health Services of Long Island, the largest of the groups, oversees six hospitals, three nursing homes and a hospice service and has a health plan covering almost 25,000 people.
Jennifer Lee, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a brief in support of the government, said there are about 75 similar lawsuits filed by nonprofits and religious groups seeking relief from the mandate. Lee said this is the first permanent injunction issued by a federal judge to her knowledge, she told the New York Daily News
"While religious liberty is fundamental, it does not give employers the right to impose their beliefs on employees by denying contraceptive coverage and discriminating against their women employees," Lee said.
But the archdiocese, in a press release said the ruling will be fundamental in the Obamacare debate.
"The court has correctly cut through the artificial construct which essentially made faith-based organizations other than churches and other houses of worship second class citizens with second class First Amendment protections," the release said. "Religious freedom is our 'First Freedom,' guaranteed in the Constitution of the United States. This decision wisely and properly affirms that this freedom must extend beyond merely being free to choose how we worship, and must include how we act in accord with our religious beliefs."
Information from Bloomberg News Service was used in this report.
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