The Archdiocese of Philadelphia and its affiliated entities filed a lawsuit June 2 challenging federal mandates that require employers to provide or to help provide contraceptive services through their health insurance. The federal rules force the entities “to violate their religious convictions by either directly supplying, or cooperating in the process to supply, contraceptive services that gravely conflict with Catholic belief,” the archdiocese said Tuesday. “The court filing disputes the Government's power to order Catholic entities to offer or cooperate in such services.” The archdiocese and its charitable agencies have filed suit against the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Labor, the Department of the Treasury, and their secretaries. The lawsuit seeks to block enforcement of the 2010 Affordable Care Act’s mandatory contraceptive coverage for employers. The lawsuit says the mandates violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Department of Health and Human Services mandate requires most U.S. employers to provide insurance coverage for sterilization and contraception, including some drugs that can cause abortions. Many Catholic organizations do not qualify for the narrow exemption from the mandate, despite their religious and moral objections to providing the coverage. The HHS department mandated the coverage as “preventive care.” Some religious exemptions have been offered, but many Catholic organizations have found them inadequate. The dioceses of Pittsburgh and Erie secured a temporary injunction against the mandate in November 2013. The mandate has resulted in over 97 legal cases representing over 300 plaintiffs, the Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty says. The plaintiffs include many non-Catholic individuals and organizations and both for-profit businesses and non-profit organizations. The Supreme Court will rule in two cases before the end of June concerning the application of the mandate to for-profit businesses. The cases, involving Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, focused on statutory protections for religious freedom.
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