Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia said that he is “deeply disappointed” that a district judge has denied the archdiocese an initial injunction against the federal contraception mandate. “Archdiocesan charities daily assist the homeless, the elderly, immigrants, the disabled, the developmentally delayed and many other segments of our population that are vulnerable,” Archbishop Chaput said. “These services are provided regardless of an individual's religious beliefs or lack thereof. We are grateful for the privilege of ministering to those most in need. We seek only to do those works of mercy without government coercion or interference that would compromise our religious convictions.” “It's a reasonable request, and for believing Catholics, a fundamentally important one,” he continued. “We'll continue to press it in every way and at every level of judicial appeal available to us.” The archbishop said June 27 that an appeal to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals has already been filed on behalf of the archdiocese and its affiliated charitable entities after U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Buckwalter rejected their request for an injunction. The judge’s decision comes in response to an archdiocesan lawsuit challenging the 2010 Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, which requires most U.S. employers to provide insurance coverage for sterilization and contraception, including some drugs that can cause abortions. While an exemption to the mandate does exist, most religious employers do not qualify for it. Many religious groups object to the terms for a separate “accommodation” that has been offered to faith-based employers that say the mandate’s demands violate their religious convictions. The mandate has resulted in more than 100 lawsuits representing over 300 plaintiffs, which include both for-profit businesses and non-profit organizations. Injunctions have been granted in the overwhelming majority of these lawsuits that have received rulings on the merits of the case. The Supreme Court will weigh in June 30 with a ruling on a case involving Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, two for-profit businesses whose owners object to the mandate. Depending on the breadth of the ruling, other lawsuits could be impacted as well. Archbishop Chaput noted that Philadelphia’s lawsuit “parallels dozens of other cases nationwide” that have been granted injunctions. Without such relief, he warned, “on July 1, 2014, we will be forced to choose between violating our deeply held religious beliefs or grave financial distress that threatens our ability to continue to perform the good works and ministerial outreach to people in need throughout the Philadelphia region.”
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