Philadelphia Archdiocese, charities file suit over contraception coverage

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     Archbishop of Philadelphia Charles Chaput. The archdiocese and affiliated charities have filed suit against the U.S. government to block to block enforcement of portions of the Affordable Care Act that require religious employers to provide contraceptive services that violate Catholic belief. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo, file)

    Archbishop of Philadelphia Charles Chaput. The archdiocese and affiliated charities have filed suit against the U.S. government to block to block enforcement of portions of the Affordable Care Act that require religious employers to provide contraceptive services that violate Catholic belief. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo, file)

    The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has joined a group of religious nonprofits in filing suit against the federal government over its requirement for contraceptive health coverage.

    As part of the Roman Catholic Church, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is exempt from the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate. But its collection of 18 affiliated charities — including several nursing homes — is not. Under the law, the charities must provide contraception coverage or, through the religious accommodation, allow a third-party insurer to offer those services on their behalf.

    “What these religious nonprofits, what they’re really objecting to is not just supplying the contraceptives — because they don’t have to supply them — but they don’t want anyone else to supply them either,” said Frederick Gedicks, a professor of law at Brigham Young University.

    The charities argue that passing those duties on to others still supports contraception and, therefore, violates their religious beliefs. If they fail to provide coverage through the accommodation, the charities must pay a fine of $100 per day per eligible employee — an excessive sum that they say would shut them down.

    As a result, the plaintiffs wrote in their complaint that the government is “putting substantial pressure on the archdiocese and the archdiocese affiliates to offer services that interfere with the dignity and sanctity of human life.”

    The case is likely to come down to whether the court believes the arrangement places too high a burden on the charities’ employees, Gedicks said. Many of the lawsuits filed by other religious nonprofits have been granted temporary relief. A notable exception is Notre Dame University, which was denied.

    The Supreme Court’s ruling in the Hobby Lobby case — expected by the end of June — covers similar legal ground, but involves for-profit businesses that are not eligible for any accommodation.

    Read the official complaint below.

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