Federal Judge to HHS: Constitution Doesn’t Say ‘Trust Us…’

Jon Street | December 11, 2012 | 3:08pm EST
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Cardinal Timothy Dolan, of New York, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, speaks at the conference's annual fall meeting in Baltimore, Monday, Nov. 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

(CNSNews.com) – The Constitution doesn’t say “Trust us, changes are coming,” wrote a New York federal judge after hearing a challenge to Obamacare’s HHS mandate from the New York Roman Catholic Archdiocese.

In a “Memorandum Decision and Order” filed on Dec. 5, a federal judge of the New York Eastern District Court wrote in response to the New York Roman Catholic Archdiocese challenge to the mandate, “Moreover, the First Amendment does not require citizens to accept assurances from the government that, if the government later determines it has made a misstep, it will take ameliorative action. There is no, ‘Trust us, changes are coming’ clause in the Constitution.

“To the contrary,” the judge wrote, “the Bill of Rights itself, and the First Amendment in particular, reflect a degree of skepticism towards governmental self-restraint and self-correction. Considering the extraordinary political passion surrounding the Coverage Mandate from all sides, there is simply no way to predict what, if any, changes to the Coverage Mandate will be made, even if some policymakers favor certain changes.”

Catholic archdioceses and Catholic-owned businesses across the country have expressed opposition to the so-called HHS mandate of Obamacare that requires nearly all employers to provide health insurance coverage that includes sterilizations, contraceptives, and abortion-inducing drugs free of charge, all three of which the Catholic Church condemns.

On March 14, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement calling the mandate “illegal and unjust,” adding that the law “cannot and will not be obeyed.” Despite Catholic opposition, the mandate took effect on Aug. 1.

The White House and members of Congress have widely dismissed claims that the mandate is a violation of First Amendment rights. More recently, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) told CNSNews.com on Thursday at an event devoted to religious freedom that he thinks the law provides “enough exceptions” and that it’s “not an issue.”

The Obama administration exempted some religious institutions from the mandate. However, Catholic-owned hospitals and schools as well as private businesses owned by Catholic individuals will not receive an exemption, since not every one of their employees express support for the Catholic Church’s teachings.

The Department of Health and Human Services has made other “accommodations” for businesses that are not eligible for an exemption. Instead of Catholic business paying directly for the preventative health services, the administration agreed to redirect the cost to the private insurance companies of Catholic entities.

But the Catholic Church refused the “accommodation,” calling it an “economic shell game,” because the accommodation would force the church to pay indirectly for the same services to which it has previously stated religious opposition.

In an open letter published on preservereligiousfreedom.org, Cardinal Donald Wuerl wrote, “The Church did not choose this fight. It is HHS that has departed from longstanding practice and precedent to change the law; our response merely aims to preserve our existing rights.”

“Although the Church would naturally remain open to good faith negotiations with the Administration,” Wuerl added, “previous discussions yielded no reasonable compromise, and the Church has been given little reason to think further attempts would be fruitful. Bringing this claim to the courts ensures a fair and impartial hearing – one that we believe we will win.”

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