News Release: Catholic Church in Michigan Welcomes Settlement With Federal Government Over HHS Mandate Litigation

Five-Year Lawsuit Ends with Religious Liberty Protections Intact

Two nurses talking at Sacred Heart Mercy Health Care Center

October 18, 2017

(Lansing, Mich.) — After five years of litigation in federal court, Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) announced today that its lawsuit against the federal government regarding the controversial Department of Health and Human Services contraceptive mandate has been settled in a favorable manner that protects religious liberty rights. The settlement comes less than one week after President Trump announced new regulations that provide broad exemptions for religious entities opposed to including or facilitating contraceptive coverage in their employer health plans.

“This victory for religious liberty will protect the Catholic Church’s freedom to serve others, especially those most in need,” said Michigan Catholic Conference President and CEO Paul A. Long. “We are pleased with the manner by which our case has been resolved and thankful this unnecessary burden has come to its conclusion. We must now remain vigilant in protecting rights essential for the common good which, regrettably, are continuously under attack by organizations whose tolerance toward religious persons and entities has reached an all-time low.”

Michigan Catholic Conference initially filed its lawsuit against the federal government in May 2012 in response to regulations issued under the Affordable Care Act that required all employers, religious or otherwise, to include coverage for contraceptives, sterilizations and abortion-inducing products in their health benefit plans. Additional lawsuits were filed by dozens of universities, health care facilities, Catholic dioceses and bishops, publishing houses and social service agencies opposed to the mandate on religious grounds. Although the federal government offered differing ‘accommodations’ to appease these organizations, none of those efforts satisfied the First Amendment and religious liberty concerns raised by the litigants, including Michigan Catholic Conference.

The downfall of the federal government’s HHS Mandate began in June 2014, based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, when the Supreme Court of the United States ruled 5–4 that closely-held corporations with religious objections were not required to participate in the government’s contraceptive mandate. Attention turned to non-profit organizations shortly thereafter when the Supreme Court announced it would hear arguments in March 2016 in a series of cases challenging the so-called ‘accommodation,’ including a case brought by the Little Sisters of the Poor religious order. On Friday, October 6, 2017, the federal government announced new regulations that provide broad protections to religious organizations opposed to the contraceptive mandate. MCC reached a settlement agreement with the Department of Justice shortly thereafter.

Michigan Catholic Conference is the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in this state.

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