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Supreme Court Hears College’s Arguments Against HHS Mandate

Supreme Court Hears College’s Arguments Against HHS Mandate

Posted: March 23, 2016

This morning the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Zubik v. Burwell, in which Thomas Aquinas College and 34 co-plaintiffs, including the Little Sisters of the Poor, challenged the federal government’s HHS Contraceptive Mandate. President Michael F. McLean and the College’s general counsel, Quincy Masteller, witnessed the proceedings inside the Courtroom while, outside, Vice President Paul J. O’Reilly joined numerous alumni and members of the Washington, D.C., Board of Regents at a large rally organized by Women Speak for Themselves.

  • SCOTUS Rally 2016
    Slideshow: Supreme Court Rally
  • SCOTUS Rally 2016
    Slideshow: Supreme Court Rally
  • SCOTUS Rally 2016
    Slideshow: Supreme Court Rally
  • SCOTUS Rally 2016
    Slideshow: Supreme Court Rally
  • SCOTUS Rally 2016
    Slideshow: Supreme Court Rally
  • SCOTUS Rally 2016
    Slideshow: Supreme Court Rally
  • SCOTUS Rally 2016
    Slideshow: Supreme Court Rally
  • SCOTUS Rally 2016
    Slideshow: Supreme Court Rally
  • SCOTUS Rally 2016
    Slideshow: Supreme Court Rally
  • SCOTUS Rally 2016
    Slideshow: Supreme Court Rally
  • SCOTUS Rally 2016
    Slideshow: Supreme Court Rally
  • SCOTUS Rally 2016
    Slideshow: Supreme Court Rally
  • SCOTUS Rally 2016
    Slideshow: Supreme Court Rally
  • SCOTUS Rally 2016
    Slideshow: Supreme Court Rally
  • SCOTUS Rally 2016
    Slideshow: Supreme Court Rally

“Our attorneys from the Jones Day law firm did an outstanding job this morning, and we were honored and grateful to have our case heard by the Justices of the Supreme Court,” said Dr. McLean. “I also want to thank our Regents and alumni who joined the rally outside the Court in a show of solidarity, and all who have joined with us across the country in our Day of Prayer and Fasting for the success of our case.”

Describing the scene inside the Courtroom as “a very animated discussion of the religious liberty issues involved in our case,” Mr. Masteller praised the College’s attorneys for their performance and the Justices for their thoroughness. “The judges were very clear and articulate in making distinctions in the law,” he said. “They had many questions, for both sides, and the issues were thoroughly examined from every angle. Our attorneys did a superb job of showing the complicity in a moral evil that is the central argument that the College is using to object to the Mandate. There was thorough discussion, and I think we presented as a good and persuasive a case as is possible.”

Vigil and Rally

In Washington, the events surrounding the oral arguments began Tuesday, when Priests for Life hosted a press conference at the National Press Club, followed by a prayer vigil that evening outside the Supreme Court. Among the speakers at the press conference was Mr. Masteller, who explained that the College objects to the Mandate’s requirement that Catholic organizations facilitate contraceptive, abortifacient, and sterilization services for their employees. “We do so because we believe the truth of the Catholic Church’s teaching that their use is gravely immoral. And we believe that the truth matters,” said Mr. Masteller. “It matters to our students, their parents, our alumni, and our benefactors, all of whom depend on the College to live up to its Catholic identity.”

At the next day’s rally, Elizabeth (McPherson ’99) Claeys, chairman of Thomas Aquinas College’s Washington, D.C., Board of Regents, spoke about the importance of this issue to the life of the College. “Thomas Aquinas College is a community of students, faculty, and staff who are unanimously committed to the formation of the human person in accordance with our Catholic faith,” Mrs. Claeys declared. “If the College complied with the Mandate, it would be forced to violate the Catholic beliefs that are the core of our mission. We are fighting against the loss of our Catholic identity.” Another speaker at the rally was Meghan Duke (’08), a former managing editor of First Things who is now a writer in The Catholic University of America’s Office of Marketing and Communications.

Following the arguments, there was cautious optimism at the rally that, through God’s grace, the College and its co-plaintiffs would prevail. “We are hopeful and prayerful at Thomas Aquinas College today,” said D. O’Reilly. “We have been engaged in fasting and prayer to support our lawyers, and we are hopeful that God in His goodness will give us the reprieve that we need.”

Prayers and Sacrifices

Today’s oral arguments mark the latest step in the protracted legal battle against the Mandate, which began nearly three years ago, when the College filed a lawsuit in federal court. That suit has gone through numerous challenges and appeals, culminating in the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the case last December.

Reflecting on the longstanding campaign, Dr. McLean expressed his gratitude to the College’s co-plaintiffs and its academic partners in the Day of Prayer and Fasting. “I am especially grateful to Rev. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life, one of our co-plaintiffs, and to the many Catholic college communities that also cherish religious liberty and have been so supportive of our efforts to defend it in our nation’s highest court,” he said. Among the colleges that joined the Day of Prayer and Fasting are:

  • Ave Maria University
  • Aquinas College
  • Belmont Abbey College
  • Benedictine College
  • The Catholic University of America
  • Christendom College
  • DeSales University
  • John Paul the Great University
  • Northeast Catholic College
  • University of St. Thomas, Houston

In addition, many alumni priests, as well as several other priests, bishops, and cardinals throughout the U.S. and in Rome offered Masses for the College or otherwise pledged their prayerful support. These included the Most Rev. J. Michael Miller, CSB, Archbishop of Vancouver; Edwin Cardinal O’Brien, Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem; the Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted, Bishop of Phoenix; the Most Rev. Carlo Maria Viganò, Apostolic Nuncio to United States of America; and Donald Cardinal Wuerl, the Archbishop of Washington and a co-plaintiff in the case. Even the soon-to-be canonized Bl. Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity lent their spiritual aid, offering their morning Mass intention and an “emergency novena” this morning on the College’s behalf.

Heartened by legal efforts of the College’s attorneys and the spiritual assistance of so many, the College community now confidently awaits the Court’s ruling. “We look forward to a favorable verdict,” says Mr. Masteller, the general counsel. “Until then we will leave it in the hand of God and hope for the best.”

Sanjay Adhikari (’18)

“When I first came here, since I am not a Catholic, I was nervous, because it’s a different culture for me, but people have been so friendly, so charitable. It is such a blessing to live in this community, where people care about you. You make strong friendships that last a lifetime.”

– Sanjay Adhikari (’18)

Kathmandu Nepal

“I thank you so much for what you are doing at Thomas Aquinas College. I hope there will always be a Thomas Aquinas College. Your contributions to the Church and the world are marvelous to behold.”

– John Cardinal O’Connor (†)

Archbishop of New York

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