After consulting with attorneys, members of the Board of the Governors, and fellow members of the faculty, Thomas Aquinas College President Michael F. McLean has expressed skepticism about the Obama Administration’s latest “accommodation” to the HHS Contraceptive Mandate. “The revised accommodation does not appear to address the College’s concerns about materially cooperating in the provision of coverage for morally objectionable procedures and medications,” says Dr. McLean.
The Administration announced the accommodation last week in response to the Supreme Court’s June 30 ruling in the case of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, as well as other legal challenges to the Mandate, which requires employers to provide contraceptive, abortifacient, and sterilization coverage to their employees. “Under the latest version of the accommodation, the College would notify the Department of Health and Human Services of its objections, and also provide the name and contact information of its plan administrator,” explains Dr. McLean. “The HHS, together with the Department of Labor, would arrange for the coverage with the administrator. The College’s notification would therefore still be the ‘trigger’ for the provision of the objectionable coverage.”
Last September Thomas Aquinas College joined a lawsuit filed by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington, The Catholic University of America, and others challenging the Mandate as a violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. In December the College succeeded in its challenge, with Judge Amy Jackson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issuing a permanent injunction against the United States Government from enforcing the Mandate on Thomas Aquinas College. The U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Treasury have since appealed that ruling, which is currently under review.
“We await a more detailed response from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to the revised accommodation and from our attorneys about the next step in the legal process,” says Dr. McLean. “I expect that we will want to continue litigating the HHS Mandate until it is finally resolved by the courts.”