According to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the University of Notre Dame brought its request to the Supreme Court after a surprising lower court decision that made it the only nonprofit religious ministry in the nation without protection from the HHS mandate.
At the time, Judge Richard A. Posner of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the University’s request for a temporary injunction to shield it from penalties and fines for violating the mandate that would require it to provide cost-free insurance coverage for contraception, abortifacients and sterilization to all employees regardless of the fact that all of these health care services are against Church teaching.
When the request was denied, the school appeal but agreed to sign the authorization form, known as the “accommodation” by the Obama Administration, to avoid crippling fines in the interim.
Today, the Supreme Court agreed with the University and sent the case back to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider its aberrant ruling in light of the recent ruling in the Hobby Lobby case which granted an exemption to certain faith-based companies from the government’s mandate to provide services that violate their religious beliefs.
This action by the Supreme Court will greatly impact upcoming cases as the government has been relying on the Notre Dame case and arguing that it should be able to impose similar burdens on religious ministries such as the Little Sisters of the Poor.
“This is a major blow to the federal government's contraception mandate. For the past year, the Notre Dame decision has been the centerpiece of the government's effort to force religious ministries to violate their beliefs or pay fines to the IRS." said Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel of the Becket Fund, which filed an amicus brief in the case.
"As with the Supreme Court's decisions in Little Sisters of the Poor and Hobby Lobby, this is a strong signal that the Supreme Court will ultimately reject the government's narrow view of religious liberty.” Thus far, over 750 plaintiffs in the other nonprofit cases have been granted protection from the unconstitutional mandate, which forces religious ministries to either violate their faith or pay massive IRS penalties.
The University’s pursuit of higher education is defined by its religious convictions. Its mission statement reads: “A Catholic university draws its basic inspiration from Jesus Christ as the source of wisdom and from the conviction that in him all things can be brought to their completion.”
Its fight to stay true to its beliefs has brought it all the way to the Supreme Court – and back to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
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