Are Catholics Becoming Second-Class Citizens?

The HHS Mandate continues to cause problems for faithful Catholics standing up for their religious liberty. There’s a battle going on this week in courts across the nation, where more than 40 dioceses or Catholic institutions are fighting just to have their arguments heard by the Federal Government.

The simultaneous filings Aug. 27 were in response to an Aug. 6 brief in which the Obama administration asked the courts to summarily dismiss the suits, saying they were premature and that the plaintiffs had no standing to challenge the Department of Health and Human Services’ mandate.

“This case is about important rights to religious freedom protected by our founders under the First Amendment, assured by Congress under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but trampled by Defendants under haphazard rulemaking,” says the 36-page brief filed on behalf of the University of Notre Dame.

The government is arguing that because of the “temporary safe harbor” exemption granted to religious institutions, and because the mandate may change before it goes into effect, there are no grounds on which to challenge it.

Those filing briefs against the government beg to differ. The cost that they are likely to bear will be enormous, and preparations must be made now in the event that their legal challenges fail:

The University of Notre Dame argues in its brief that the federal government’s “plans to make some as-yet-undefined amendment to the U.S. government mandate does not deprive Notre Dame of its ability to challenge the law as it exists now, particularly where, as here, it is imposing both imminent and current harms.”

Included with the Notre Dame brief was a sworn deposition by John Affleck-Graves, executive vice president of the university, who said the school’s budget for fiscal year 2013 had to be finalized by October 2012.

“Before its next budget is finalized in the coming months, Notre Dame will have to make difficult decisions about whether to budget for the potential of significant fines if it cannot, for any number of reasons, comply with the mandate’s requirement that it provide the objectionable services in the next plan years,” the deposition said.

With about 4,500 full-time employees, the university could face approximately $9 million in fines annually, Affleck-Graves said. The school has already placed $1 million in reserve to pay costs and fines associated with the mandate, he said.

Notre Dame also estimates that it will spend up to $50,000 in the next two months alone for actuarial services to determine the impact of the contraceptive mandate.

In a similar brief, the Archdiocese of Washington said it could incur penalties of nearly $145 million a year, “simply for practicing our faith,” or could be forced to cancel health insurance benefits for its 4,000 archdiocesan employees and their dependents.

“Either scenario is unthinkable, and planning for such action is itself a grave burden, but in either case the mandate’s impact would be so severe that the archdiocese must begin to prepare now,” the archdiocese said in a news release.

Meanwhile, in Denver, Catholic business owners who had won a civic award had the award witheld after they won an injunction against the mandate.

Hercules Industries, a heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning manufacturer that employs 300 workers and has been in business in the Mile-High City for 50 years, was to be honored with a “Good Citizenship Award.” The laurel was in recognition of contributions to the community, including the historic restoration of company headquarters and, ironically, its “generous employee health care coverage.”

But the award was taken away after the owners of Hercules Industries, the Newland family, won the court injunction, which said that they did not have to start providing employees with coverage that included abortion-inducing drugs, contraception and sterilization. As with several companies and colleges around the nation, the family that runs Hercules claimed that the mandates force them to violate their own religious beliefs.

This is likely only the beginning of the stories we’ll be hearing about how this blatant violation of religious freedom is impacting colleges, diocesan institutions, and Catholic business owners. It’s hard to believe that this is what things have come to, but it’s indicative of where things are heading.



  • Jane

    This whole website is to gain Catholic support for a Mormon. NOT gonna happen.

  • Brandon

    Congressman Paul Ryan stated last night that our time under the president has been “a dull, adventureless journey from one entitlement to the next, a government-planned life, a country where everything is free but us.” There are countless lawsuits over the words “God”, “Jesus” and where you can and cannot say or write these words. Schools are not safe for religion. Places of employment are not safe for religion. While these are sweeping indictments, they are based in fact ( ; A lawyer arbitrarily filed suit against Catholic University in Washington DC because they didn’t provide a room free from Catholic symbolism (at a Catholic school) for Muslims to pray in. Let’s not overlook the fact that none, not a single one, of the Islamic students complained to the school.

    The Church is a defendant of a larger crisis. The second-class citizens in America are the institutions that recognize a higher power and reject the notion that selfishness is admirable. It is selfish to demand that contraception be free and provided by taxpayers and health insurance. This sends the message that hedonism is the overwhelming philosophy of the American Culture. America was once considered consumerism to be our driving force behind capitalism and democracy. This republic now stands for whatever makes me happy regardless of the consequences. One night stands that lead to pregnancy, feel free because Roe v. Wade has your back. But you should not get pregnant anyway because contraception is right and so is your right to be promiscuous.

    These ideas contradict our American Values. America is a global leader in economics, politics and military might but we are sorely lacking when it comes to responsibility, accountability and, above all, morality. This post will probably receive many dislikes because we have been socially conditioned to be prone to rejecting criticism. The time has come and gone for the passive nature regarding our Constitutionally protected religious freedom that are slowing becoming subject to interpretation. The Church and the people of America must take an active, vocal stance in the political scene. Catholics and Christians are marginalized. When we want to be faithful to our beliefs, we are belittled in the public square. Our bishops try to speak for us and liberals will get another Catholic (who is not in the hierarchy) to reject the Church’s teaching to show that it is okay to reject the Church’s teaching.

    Men and Women of faith, the time has past for us to speak up and defend ourselves. Our current elected leaders are not listening to us. We are considered archaic and delusional for being faithful. Our voices should not wait until November, but we should start now. Support the bishops. Contact your elected leaders and state your support for faith and religious freedom. Affirm the need to protect the poor and the disenfranchised, but not at the expense of faith. And when you vote, do so with an informed and faithful conscience.


    • Too Tall Tom

      Amen, Brandon, Amen!! Well said.

    • Maria

      Very well said Brandon. We must take action and defend our faith.

  • DJohn

    Becoming? Catholics have always been second class citizens in this country. Advancement in America has always required that one compromise one’s Catholic faith. This is not out of the norm for history, however, in the last 45 years or so, the Church has become so lax that Catholics no longer obey readily. Further, they don’t know how to react, the Bishops are actually acting to defend the Church and Her teachings, Catholics in the United States have little experience with such things. The Bishops need to be seen more, they need to be more vocal, more insistent, and in every Catholic school, and every CCE program their authority should be taught and reenforced among the young, so that when things get worse, the young are prepared to support them.

  • Czarcasm

    Let me know when they start making us wear patches to identify our religion or asking us for our papers.

    • Tranx

      Or firing us from our jobs, or kicking us out of the military, or breaking into our homes in the middle of the night and arresting us, or banning us from getting a marriage license from the state where we live. These are all things that our nation has done to gay people. While Catholics did nothing, and our leaders actually spoke in favor of these discriminatory laws. But yeah, it’s the Catholics who are the second class citizens.

      • Charles

        You mean like firing signers and donors to Prop 8? Or the new pro-homosexual positions in the military that discriminate against Catholic chaplains? Those are things the new gay-stapo is doing.

        BTW- No one is banning you from a marriage license. Other things are stopping you from meeting the terms of the marriage license. However, if U.S. law redefines marriage, Catholics would banned from getting a marriage license. We would be forced to accept a ‘temporary mutually-agreeable union in pursuit of legal benefits with some socially presumptions of our romantic involvement which may be expressed in any way including additional partners’ contract. That’s not a marriage.

    • timbo2977

      What an irresponsible and despicable thing to say about one of the worst events that occurred in the twentieth century. Millions of people died then, for no reason other than being Jews and living in Nazi occupied countries–how dare you even begin to compare yourself to them? Do you have any familiarity with the history surrounding it at all? Catholics in this country live with an amazing amount of privilege. No one, in our government or in our communities, is saying that we should not go to church and not practice the faith we believe. Instead, when a law comes around that you find the slightest repulsive, you say its an attack on religious liberty. What about other people’s liberty? The liberty of any number of people you folk bash on a daily basis-Muslims, gays, atheists, the educated, so on? What about the rights of the people who aren’t Catholic to have access to these various services? Where exactly is the church getting money for this? And why isn’t this money actually going to take care of things that Jesus told us to take care of–clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, and any number of Beatitudes? Seems like we have forgotten that, doesn’t it?

  • birdseed

    Respondng to Already Broke: I will be more than happy to increase my donation to cover your sinful attitude. These are great lawsuits. We cannot let the first domino fall in the trampling of our religious freedom in this country. It has to stop here and now.

    • greg smith

      No lawsuit is a great lawsuit. The summons and complaint is evidence that less harmful measures have failed. Whatever the winner gains is always offset by losses be they financial, emotional or even spritual.

  • Already Broke

    “The cost that they are likely to bear will be enormous, and preparations must be made now in the event that their legal challenges fail.” —–> I hope the people in authority in the Church who initiated these legal actions have big pockets because there’s no way that I am going to put any money in the collection basket to prop up these ill-considered lawsuits.

    • Kat

      Well as the pope said the other day, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

    • Lu M

      But you’d put the money in the basket to pay for contraception and abortions instead?

    • Steve Skojec

      Because it’s ill-considered to fight a government mandate that forces you to violate your conscience?

      Hmm, maybe we’ll all put a little extra in the basket on your behalf. Hopefully it’ll more than even things out.

      • Gregory

        The rule doesn’t require anyone to do anything as I understand it. Catholic businesses don’t have to lift a finger. If their employees want their health plans to cover birth control, then they make the request to the insurance company and the insurance company changes their plan and covers the associated costs. How can doing nothing possibly violate your conscience. If my employees want to go down to the corner and use their wages to buy crack cocaine, that has nothing to do with me. If they want to use their insurance stipends to buy birth control, that has nothing to do with me. What am I missing?

        • Not a Romulan

          I don’t think you’re missing anything, Gregory. It seems some people want to make-believe they are martyrs while they insist upon imposing their theocratic decisions on the rest of us. And if all the Catholics who use birth control leave the Church, the remaining right-wing sectarians won’t be able to keep those hospitals, etc. open because as much as they say they’ll put more money in the basket, they won’t. If they really wanted to, they could put tons of their money in the basket right now to establish viable alternatives to abortion which would greatly cut down the abortion rate, but they won’t. They are just being used by the Republican Party – which also is nothing but talk when it comes to reducing the number of abortions. Romney’s sister has him pegged exactly right.

        • Jmdoman

          What you’re missing:
          The COMPANY is PAYING for the INSURANCE.

        • JSM

          What you are missing is that we still have to provide insurance that offers contraception. That violates our conscience. You do owe your employee a just wage, and you’re right, it’s up to them to do what they want with it. But employers give wages; they don’t offer the drug pusher with it, and then let the employee decide whether to use the drug pusher or not. Oddly enough, employers are not required to offer specific drugs, or “free” insulin for diabetics, or any other number of things. Also interesting, if the government thinks it’s THAT important to offer free contraceptive (even though the high percentages of people using it shows it is reasonably priced and easily gotten) they could do it in other ways that would not violate our conscience.

          You are also missing that a number of these organizations are self-insured. So when the “insurance company” offers them contraception, it is the organization itself offering it.

      • Karen

        Some things are just worth fighting for- and this is one of those things. If not for us, then for the future of our children and grandchildren because once Religious Liberty is lost, it cannot be regained easily, if at all.

      • JSM

        For what it’s worth, I accidentally hit “thumbs down” when I wanted to hit “thumbs up.” Sorry.



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