College Joins Legal Brief Against the HHS Mandate

Thomas Aquinas has joined a consortium of 15 Catholic colleges and universities in filing a legal brief (PDF) in support of two lawsuits against the HHS mandate, which violates the First Amendment and federal conscience protections.

The lawsuits come from two organizations, one Catholic, one Protestant — Belmont Abbey College and Wheaton College — that have sought to block the mandate’s requirement that Christian employers provide abortifacient, sterilization, and contraceptive coverage to their employees. The Cardinal Newman Society organized various Catholic institutions to sign the amicus curiae brief, and attorneys from the Alliance Defending Freedom filed the brief on Friday.

“This brief should lay to rest the claim that the HHS mandate does not force Catholic organizations to violate Church teaching,” says Thomas Aquinas College President Michael F. McLean. “We can say with all certainty that it does. If the mandate is not overturned, Thomas Aquinas College will be subject to crippling fees if it fails to provide the mandated coverage. This is why so many Catholic organizations are appealing to the legal system to protect our Constitutional rights.”

In the brief, the signatories cite the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which permits the federal government to “burden a person’s exercise of religion” only if the policy “is the least restrictive means” available for furthering “a compelling government interest.” The brief notes that the HHS mandate fails on both counts: There is little research to suggest that mandatory contraceptive/abortifacient coverage will achieve the government’s stated interest in reducing unwanted pregnancies, and it is not the least restrictive means of doing so. Moreover, the government’s interest cannot be all that “compelling,” the brief continues, if the mandate already excludes some 100 million Americans through grandfathered plans and other exemptions.

“Belmont Abbey and Wheaton College are at the forefront of this battle, and we are pleased to support them in any way we can,” said Dr. McLean. “We are also grateful to the Cardinal Newman Society and Alliance Defending Freedom for enabling other institutions to participate in this brief. Thomas Aquinas College is steadfast in its commitment to upholding the teachings of the Catholic Church and protecting the free exercise of religion for all Americans.”


Posted: October 16, 2012