Hundreds of Catholic employers have been relieved of millions of dollars in crippling fines after a judge granted them relief from the penalties of violating the federal birth control mandate requiring organizations provide coverage of contraception and abortifacients in employee health care plans.
Judge David Russell of the United States District Court of Western Oklahoma has ruled that the controversial Department of Health and Human Services mandate “violated” rights of CBA members guaranteed by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
The judge reasoned that the “women’s preventive services mandate” enacted in 2012 by the Obama administration tried to coerce CBA members to provide coverage of drugs that they feel violate the teachings of the Catholic Church.
Russell permanently barred the federal government and future administrations from enforcing the mandate against CBA members or enacting any future regulation that would force them to provide such health care coverage.
The judge’s ruling also eliminated the $6.9 million in fines that CBA member organizations have racked up for violating the mandate.
“This is the tremendous win,” CBA CEO Douglas Wilson said in a statement. “The first freedom in the Bill of Rights is the First Amendment right to freedom of religion. The court has rightly ruled that employers should not be forced to violate their beliefs and cover morally problematic elective and often low-cost choices that individuals may wish to make.”
CBA, which serves over 1,000 Catholic orders, hospitals, universities, archdioceses and other institutions, has been in a legal battle against the mandate since 2014.
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