The Obama administration has been consistently arguing, since announcing a year’s grace period for some religious organizations to figure out how to violate their consciences and obey the HHS mandate, that the controversy over religious freedom and the mandate is over and the Catholics are happy.
That, as has been pointed out here before, ignores all the lawsuits pending. And that they are not just from Catholics.
Today in New York, a judge dismissed the Obama Justice Department’s claims that the Archdiocese of New York’s lawsuit in response to the coercive mandate is unnecessary. Judge Brian Cogan of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York wrote:
Fundamentally . . . this Court cannot accept that the present costs incurred by plaintiffs are simply the result of their “desire to prepare for contingencies.” Quite frankly, ignoring the speeding train that is coming towards plaintiffs in the hope that it will stop might well be inconsistent with the fiduciary duties that plaintiffs’ directors or officers owe to their members. As explained above, the practical realities of administering health care coverage for large numbers of employees — which defendants’ recognize — require plaintiffs to incur these costs in advance of the impending effectiveness of the Coverage Mandate. That is a business reality that any responsible board of directors would have to appreciate.
Moreover, the First Amendment does not require citizens to accept assurances from the government that, if the government later determines it has made a misstep, it will take ameliorative action. There is no, “Trust us, changes are coming” clause in the Constitution. To the contrary, the Bill of Rights itself, and the First Amendment in particular, reflect a degree of skepticism towards governmental self-restraint and self-correction. . . . Considering the extraordinary political passion surrounding the Coverage Mandate from all sides, there is simply no way to predict what, if any, changes to the Coverage Mandate will be made, even if some policymakers favor certain changes.
This is the first time a judge has let a case from a church entity like the Archdiocese of New York go forward. Diocesan suits in Pittsburgh and Nashville were dismissed at the end of November. (They plan to try again as their implementation date comes closer — they fall under the year’s delay President Obama granted to some.)
A Reuters report on the news notes:
The finalized rule sparked more than 20 legal challenges, including the one filed in Brooklyn federal court by the New York archdiocese and four other Catholic-affiliated groups. The New York archdiocese, one of the largest in the country, employs more than 10,000 people, and about 9,000 Catholic and non-Catholic employees are covered by its healthcare plan.
The archdiocese argued in court papers that even though it is unclear what its legal obligations will be once the exemption is fully outlined, it expects to incur nearly $200 million each year in penalties if it is forced to comply with the coverage requirement.
Actually, 40 cases, with over 100 plaintiffs. But the coverage is getting a bit more intense. And this is another step in a court toward protecting religious liberty against this radical policy.
UPDATE: Here is the document. Expect more at Bench Memos.