Santa Barbara News-Press Covers College’s Ongoing HHS Battle

“They’ve won an important battle, but for Thomas Aquinas College, the war rages on.”

So begins a front-page story in Thursday’s Santa Barbara News-Press about the federal government’s appeal of the College’s initial victory in its lawsuit against the HHS Mandate. (The article is available for free, via PDF download, courtesy of the News-Press.)

The story, by correspondent Zach Noble, discusses how the College has managed to preserve its religious freedom — at least for the time being — despite the federal mandate compelling Catholic employers to provide contraceptive, abortifacient, and sterilization coverage:

What did Thomas Aquinas have that other religious organizations didn’t?

The college was ahead of the curve, said Anne Forsyth, director of college relations.

Experience working with California law had prepared Thomas Aquinas to handle Affordable Care Act requirements, Mrs. Forsyth said.

“We sought a way to be in compliance with the law while honoring our own consciences,” she said.

The college became self-insured, under the auspices of the Reta Trust, and effectively dodged having to provide contraceptives to its employees. … [The HHS Mandate] would force the school to actively seek an administrator who would pay for contraceptives and so, Judge Jackson ruled, the regulations infringe upon the college’s religious liberty.

Should the court lift the injunction that currently shields the College from the mandate, the costs could be crippling:

“We could end all coverage for all of our employees, provide no health care, and pay $96,000 a year (in fines),” she said. “But if we were to continue providing health insurance without coverage for contraception, sterilization, and abortion-causing drugs, we would face penalties of $100 a day for each of our 78 employees — or $2.85 million a year.” …

“This case is not about access to contraception,” said [College general counsel John Quincy] Masteller. “This is a case of religious liberty.”

“The Obama administration has clearly reduced ‘freedom of religion’ to ‘freedom of worship,’” Mrs. Forsyth added. “But our faith impacts our daily lives. We don’t leave it at the church door.”