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Obamacare Lawsuits Mount as Notre Dame Joins Scrum of Opponents.

Hours after the University of Notre Dame filed a religious challenge to the U.S. health-care overhaul in Indiana federal court, a judge in Washington heard arguments in a lawsuit assailing tax provisions of the statute.

The cases underscore the persistent and diverse nature of legal attacks on the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act even as the Obama administration struggles to fix bugs in, the online marketplace for health insurance created by the measure.

Obamacare litigation continues partly because questions about its legitimacy as a piece partisan legislation are unresolved, said Ilya Shapiro, a senior fellow in constitutional studies at the libertarian Cato Institute in Washington and an opponent of the act. The statute passed Congress without Republican support in either the House or Senate.

It doesn’t matter what motivates the plaintiffs bringing those challenges as long as “their legal arguments are sound, because that’s what the courts are looking at,” Shapiro said.

The suit in Washington, in which a federal judge yesterday heard arguments for an immediate verdict, was brought by seven individuals and businesses from six states. At least three similar complaints have been filed in Oklahoma, Virginia and Indiana. All challenge some of the federal government’s authority to offer tax credits to subsidize health insurance for poor people under Obamacare.

Catholic Teaching

The complaint Notre Dame filed yesterday, alleging that the law’s requirement health plans cover birth control violates Roman Catholic teaching, is a re-filing of a lawsuit dismissed in December on procedural grounds.

The Notre Dame case is among 86 lawsuits attacking Obamacare on religious grounds, according to Erin Mersino, trial counsel at the Thomas More Law Center, of Ann Arbor, Michigan, a Christian-based public interest law firm.

Forty-one of the cases involve primarily Catholic nonprofit groups such as Notre Dame and take issue with the birth control mandate, Mersino said. The other 46 were brought by for-profit entities whose owners argue the contraception provision violates their religious freedom, she said.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Nov. 26 agreed to hear two cases from the for-profit group involving the craft store chain Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. They, too, claim an exemption from covering employees’ birth control on religious grounds.

First Look

The dispute will be the court’s first look at President Barack Obama’s biggest legislative accomplishment since a majority of the justices upheld the core of the law in 2012.

The court on Dec. 2 declined to hear an appeal by Liberty University, a Virginia school founded by the late evangelical preacher and activist Jerry Falwell, which lost a lower-court case arguing the law’s employer mandate exceeded Congress’s power over interstate commerce.

The suits by nonprofit religious groups are less advanced in the courts because the Obama administration delayed the birth control mandate for a year as it sought an accommodation with them.

While the religious cases have drawn attention because of their number and high-profile plaintiffs such as Notre Dame and the Archdiocese of Washington, they don’t threaten the viability of Obamacare, according to Timothy Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, and a consumer representative to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

“They’re challenges to one particular part of one particular regulation,” Jost said. “They’re very important cases, but I don’t think they mean much for the Affordable Care Act.”

The tax cases, involving federal subsidies to people shopping for insurance on government-run marketplaces, or exchanges, present a “significant challenge” to the law because, if successful, they could prevent millions of people from buying coverage, Jost said.

Plaintiffs in those suits argue the language of the health- care legislation allows subsidies only for people using state- run exchanges, not the federal government’s.

Thirty-three states, including Ohio, Texas and Florida, declined to set up exchanges.

“No legitimate method of statutory construction would interpret the phrase ‘established by the state’ in the ACA’s subsidy provisions to mean ‘‘established by the state or federal government,’’ according to a brief filed by plaintiffs in the case argued yesterday in Washington.

Congressional Intent

That argument will probably fail because courts look on laws as a whole, not narrow slices of language, and ‘‘it’s clear Congress meant for the federal exchanges to be treated the same as the states’ exchanges,” Jost said.

Shapiro, of the Cato Institute, said the tax credit cases could “have legs.”

“There’s a very strong technical argument that the challengers are bringing,” Shapiro said. “It’s not some sort of glitch or scriveners’ error. Congress wanted to incentivize states to create these exchanges.”

At least one other case challenges the Affordable Care Act on the grounds that it violates the Constitution’s origination clause, which requires revenue-raising measures to originate in the House, not the Senate.

U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell in Washington in June rejected that argument as made by Matt Sissel, an Iowa man, concluding the challenged bill originated in the House even if it was completely rewritten by the Senate.

The cases are Notre Dame University v. Sebelius, 3:13- cv-01276, U.S. District Court, North District of Indiana (South Bend), and Halbig v. Sebelius, 13-cv-00623, U.S District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

© Copyright 2013 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

Notre Dame Challenges US Contraceptive Mandate in Lawsuit.

abortion pill
Will the Obama administration succeed in causing Catholic institutions to violate their religious beliefs?

The University of Notre Dame filed a lawsuit on Tuesday challenging mandatory coverage of contraception under U.S. federal healthcare laws that it said run contrary to the Catholic university‘sreligious beliefs.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in South Bend, Indiana, followed university discussions with the Obama Administration that sought an expanded exception for schools and universities from the requirement, Notre Dame said.

“This lawsuit is about one of America’s most cherished freedoms: the freedom to practice one’s religion without government interference,” Notre Dame said in the lawsuit filed on Tuesday that asks a judge to block the requirement.

The 2010 Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, requires employers to provide health insurance policies with cover preventive services for women including access to contraception and sterilization.

The act makes an exception for religious institutions such as houses of worship that mainly serve and employ members of their own faith, but not schools like Notre Dame, hospitals and charitable organizations that employ people of all faiths.

The Notre Dame lawsuit follows the U.S. Supreme Court’s announcement in November that it would hear appeals from two businesses whose owners said the mandatory coverage of contraception violates their religious beliefs.

Notre Dame had challenged the mandate in May 2012, but a federal judge dismissed that lawsuit because the rules were not yet final. They became final in June.

Rev. John Jenkins, Notre Dame’s president, on Tuesday said in a statement that at its core the lawsuit was about the freedom of a religious organization to live its mission and went beyond a debate about contraceptive services.

Notre Dame’s employee health plan covers about 11,000 people including employees and dependents and a student health program covers about 2,700 people, it said.

The plans do not cover abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives when they are used to prevent pregnancy, or sterilization. The plans do not appear to meet exceptions allowed for religious entities, Notre Dame said.

Those services will continue to be freely available in the United State outside of Notre Dame, and the university was not seeking to impose its religious beliefs on others.

© 2013 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.


Unlikely Leaders.

In a bold and daring move, President Franklin D. Roosevelt selected a dark horse candidate to lead the allied troops in a major offensive designed to crush Hitler’s European campaign. The obvious choice would have been either General Douglas MacArthur, Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery, or General George Patton, each a well-schooled strategist…each a worthy and safe selection. But the prevailing thought at the White House believed those men were more interested in their reputations and resumes than in the success of the mission.

Roosevelt’s surprise choice was instead a younger, quieter, yet highly detailed general from Kansas. Dwight Eisenhower wasn’t as slick or confident as his counterparts, but he was the man, make no mistake about that.

Leadership isn’t always given to the most impressive or best qualified. The true visionary has often made his way to the top via an unorthodox approach. Notre Dame University, for example, teaches its “A” students to learn to appreciate the “D” students. The school’s research has shown that their honor students are very likely to be employed by their dropouts.

Biblical leadership is handled in the same way. God rarely goes with the most-likely-to-succeed crowd. Samson and King Saul were two exceptions, yet in the final analysis, leadership ate those two alive. On paper they looked good. Both had tremendous curb-appeal but neither was a closer.

God has consistently chosen the least-likelies, the never-wanna-be’s, and the who-me’s? to accomplish His work. God has always picked the ordinary to do the extraordinary, the common laborer to do His Kingdom work. He chose Ehud for no better reason than that the candidate was available and left-handed. Gideon was picked to lead Israel’s troops, though he had shown serious signs of cowardice. Nehemiah was a security food taster when the Lord came calling. God picked defiant Jonah to do a job he had no heart for. Each recruit broke the mold, a second stringer at best. Yet each one accomplished great things.

On the rare occasions when God picked someone of renown, He would first send them off to be retooled. Antagonistic Paul was dispatched to the Arabian desert for 3 years. Aristocratic Moses was stationed in the Sinai wilderness for 40 years. Biblical leadership is unlike any other. The obstacles are bigger. The stakes are higher. The cost is greater.

A simple word search of the Exodus may reveal something about biblical leadership. For example, the familiar words of wonderful, laugh, smile and content are never mentioned in the Exodus. However, panic, pity, pluck and plague are all used repeatedly. Pleasant and patient are not there, but unpleasant and impatient are. Kiss is missing but spit and venom are listed. Cursed and vengeance are there, but volunteer and thanks are not. The only place in the entire Bible you’ll find scab, scar, scapegoat and dump are in the Exodus. Yes is never found in the Exodus, but no is listed 185 times. Friendship is not there but enemy is. Sleeping is not, but working is. Borrowed is not, but stolen is. Agree is not, but refuse is. Sober is not, but drunk is. Soap is not, bath is not, but smell is. Forgiven is used 15 times but only because sin is listed 156 times. Self control is not listed, but strong drink has a half- dozen mentions. And happy am I is never found, but woe to you is.

This is not to imply that leadership is all bad (although bad is listed ten times in the Exodus). Leadership does have its just rewards (although rewards is never mentioned).

By Ron Walters
Senior Vice President Ministry Relations

© Copyright 2012 by Ron Walters

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Obama comes out swinging after debate – in swing states.


MOUNT VERNON, Iowa (Reuters) – President Barack Obama hit rival Mitt Romney hard on women’s issues as he headed back on the campaign trail on Wednesday after a spirited debate performance that re-energized his bid for a second term.

A day after a much-improved performance in the second of three presidential debates, a revitalized Obama continued sparring with his Republican opponent, making fun of Romney’s comment that he had received “binders full of women” to consider for cabinet positions when he was governor of Massachusetts.

“I’ve got to tell you, we don’t have to collect a bunch of binders to find qualified, talented driven young women ready to learn and teach in (science, technology and engineering) right now. And when young women graduate, they should get equal pay for equal work,” Obama, relaxed and smiling in shirt sleeves and a loosened tie, told 2,000 people at Cornell College in Iowa.

With 20 days to go until the election, Obama campaigned in Iowa and Ohio while Romney was in Virginia – all important “swing states” that can go to either candidate on November 6.

In Chesapeake, Virginia, Romney said Obama has failed to help women get well-paying jobs and also accused the president of failing to produce a second-term agenda.

“Don’t you think it’s time for them to finally put together a vision for what he’d do in the next four years if he were re-elected?” Romney asked about 3,500 supporters outside a community college.

Romney scored points of his own during Tuesday night’s debate when he focused on middle class economic struggles and listed promises he said Obama failed to keep from his 2008 campaign.

Both sides claimed victory, but most polls gave a badly needed edge to Obama, who saw his lead in polls contract sharply after a lackluster performance in the first debate October 3.

Voters said Obama outperformed Romney by a substantial margin on Tuesday night, according to a post-debate Reuters/Ipsos survey: 48 percent to 33 percent.

“This will give the president a bit of a bounce and a little bit of an edge, but it’s going to be quite close right down to the wire,” Notre Dame University political science professor Michael Desch said.

The final presidential debate is scheduled for Monday in Boca Raton, Florida.


Obama leads Romney by 47 percent to 44 percent among likely voters, according to Wednesday’s Reuters/Ipsos daily online tracking poll. His 3-point lead was unchanged from Tuesday, with most of the interviews done before the latest debate.

A Rasmussen Reports tracking poll of 11 swing states had Obama leading Romney by 50 percent to 47 percent on Wednesday.

Obama needs strong support from women voters if he hopes to beat the Republican, and he made sure to appeal to them during the debate by bringing up contraceptive rights and his push to ensure pay equity.

Analysts said Obama did particularly well on women’s issues, boosted by Romney’s awkward “binders” statement, which lit up social media. The mock Twitter account @RomneyBinders amassed more than 33,000 followers, and a Facebook page “Binders Full of Women” attracted more than 303,000 “likes.”

Romney, a former private equity adviser, hit back by contending his business experience will help women, and all Americans, by bolstering the sputtering economy.

His campaign also released new television advertisements directed at women.

One outlines Romney’s stance on abortion and contraception, which is more moderate than that of many Republicans. In the ad, a woman directly faces the camera and talks about Romney’s support for contraception as well as abortion in cases of rape, incest or a threat to a mother’s life.

A second, called “Humanity,” features women who worked for Romney when he was governor of Massachusetts talking about his sensitivity to women employees.

Analysts also said Romney bungled on foreign policy when he mischaracterized – and was corrected by the debate monitor – Obama’s initial remarks on last month’s deadly attacks on diplomatic facilities in Libya.

Obama took advantage of the moment to accuse Romney of politicizing the deaths of four Americans.

Polls show the economy is an area in which voters view the two candidates similarly, or give the Republican an edge. But Obama has been helped recently by some positive economic news.

On Wednesday, the Commerce Department said groundbreaking on new homes surged in September to its fastest pace in more than four years, a sign the sector’s budding recovery is gaining traction and supporting the wider economic recovery.

(Additional reporting by Steve Holland in Chesapeake, Virginia and Jeff Mason, Alina Selyukh, Andy Sullivan, Debbie Charles, Susan Heavey and Patricia Zengerle in Washington; writing by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Marilyn W. Thompson and Doina Chiacu)


By Mark Felsenthal | Reuters

43 Catholic Groups File Suit Against Obamacare.

Pastor Bill Devlin
Pastor Bill Devlin of Manhattan Bible Church addresses the crowd at a rally in New York City.  (Priests for Life)

The battle is on. The Catholic Church has thrown down the gauntlet in the front lawn of the White House.

The Archdiocese of New York, the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., the University of Notre Dame—43 Catholic dioceses and organizations nationwide in total—filed a dozen federal lawsuits against the Obama administration for violating their constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion.

The Catholic dioceses and businesses are suing the Obama administration over new regulations that would force health-care plans in the United States to cover sterilizations and abortion drugs.

“By suing the Obama administration, they are sending a message that the freedom of religion guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution is essential to our liberties and that they will fight to preserve it,” says Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. “The Constitution guarantees more than simply freedom of worship. It also protects the right to live out one’s religious beliefs in accordance with their faith.”

As Perkins sees it, regardless of their views on abortion or contraception, Americans of all faiths oppose forcing religious organizations to pay for such services. The Obama administration, through its Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), he argues, would do just that by forcing religious organizations to cover abortifacients and contraceptives in their health-care plans.

Alan Sears, Alliance Defense Fund president and CEO, also applauded the lawsuits. He says the lawsuits are about religious freedom and freedom of conscience, not about contraception, just as the archdioceses themselves are saying.

“These new cases are about the very right to determine what is ‘religious’ and what faith-based beliefs may be followed in life,” Sears says. “They join the growing list of evangelical, protestant and Catholic religious organizations and employers who are taking a stand in objecting to the government when it forces any religious institution or individual to provide or fund morally repugnant services.”

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, says his group has tried negotiation with the Obama administration and legislation with the Congress—and will keep at it. But, he adds, there’s still no fix.

“Time is running out, and our valuable ministries and fundamental rights hang in the balance, so we have to resort to the courts now. Though the Conference is not a party to the lawsuits, we applaud this courageous action by so many individual dioceses, charities, hospitals and schools across the nation, in coordination with the law firm of Jones Day,” Dolan says. “It is also a compelling display of the unity of the church in defense of religious liberty. It’s also a great show of the diversity of the church’s ministries that serve the common good and that are jeopardized by the mandate—ministries to the poor, the sick, and the uneducated, to people of any faith or no faith at all.”

Finally, Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, notes that these new actions mean there are now 23 lawsuits filed against this assault on religious freedom. Pavone’s organization was the fourth to file suit against the mandate in February.

“When there are multiple federal lawsuits on the same issue in different parts of the country, this can create the potential kind of conflict that the Supreme Court may be more likely to resolve,” Pavone says.

Besides suing Kathleen Sebelius and the HHS, Father Pavone and Priests for Life are helping organize rallies nationwide to stand up for religious freedom on Friday, June 8. The Priests for Life team is organizing the rally in New York City.

“The fact that the New York Archdiocese is now part of the legal assault on this mandate will, I am sure, create renewed interest and participation in our June 8 rally,” he says. “We invite all to take part.”


By Jennifer LeClaire

The Catholic contraception-mandate mega-lawsuit: A guide.

              President Obama, accompanied by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebellus, faces a raft of lawsuits from Catholics unhappy with his administration's contraception mandate.

Notre Dame and 42 other Catholic institutions sue the Obama administration, arguing that they’re being forced to facilitate behavior they find “intrinsically immoral”

President Obama, accompanied by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebellus, faces a raft of lawsuits from Catholics unhappy with his administration’s contraception mandate. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images     SEE ALL 85 PHOTOS

On Monday, 43 Catholic organizations filed 12 federal lawsuits seeking to overturn the Obama administration’s recent mandate that most employer-provided health insurance cover birth control and sterilization. The plaintiffs include several dioceses, social services providers, and educational institutions, but the biggest surprise was the participation of the University of Notre Dame, one of America’s top Catholic colleges. What’s this mega-lawsuit about? Here, a brief guide:

Who exactly is participating in the lawsuit? Along with Notre Dame, parties to the 12 suits include 13 dioceses — among them the archdioceses of New York, Washington, D.C., and St. Louis — Catholic University, the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, and several Catholic schools and local Catholic Charities branches. Notable groups sitting the suit out are the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), which tells Commonweal that its “concerns are addressed in the lawsuits that were filed,” and the Catholic Health Association (CHA), which is still in negotiations with the Obama administration.

And what is the fight over? There are at least two issues that have the Catholic institutions up in arms. First: Catholic hospitals, schools, and charities will have to include copay-free birth control in their health insurance offerings, in violation of the church’s (widely ignored) ban on contraception. The U.S. Catholic bishops rejected the Obama compromise — insurance will pay for the birth control, not the institutions — because some groups self-insure, and the rest still have to “facilitate” activities they see as “intrinsically immoral.” The second issue is the Obama administration’s decision to treat Catholic institutions separately than parishes and dioceses, which are exempt from the mandate.

What do the plaintiffs want? The coordinated lawsuits ask federal courts to say that the contraception rules violate religious institutions’ First Amendment rights to free exercise of religion, as well as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. But some of the universities and all of the dioceses are already exempt, says Grant Gallicho at Commonweal. Why “sue now over a mandate that won’t affect them and won’t go into effect for another 15 months”? Obviously, says Elizabeth Scalia at Patheos, “they understand that, ‘exempt’ or not, ‘accommodated’ or not, the government is fundamentally overstepping its bounds with this mandate.” This is about “religious freedom,” and “that matters. A whole lot.”

Why file suit now? Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York says “time is running out, and our valuable ministries and fundamental rights hang in the balance, so we have to resort to the courts now.” That’s “nonsense,” says Commonweal‘s Gallicho. The hospitals and charities and universities have until August 2013 — “why sue before exhausting all other options?” Sadly, it seems that “many bishops seem to want this fight,” says E.J. Dionne in The Washington Post. It’s “looking more and more like a direct intervention in this fall’s elections,” with Obama being unfairly painted as “an enemy of religious freedom.”

Why did Notre Dame join? The university’s president, Fr. John Jenkins, gave the same reasons as the other plaintiffs, minus “the vitriol and hyperbole,” says Michael Sean Winters at National Catholic Reporter. He insists this isn’t about contraception, which many faculty and students “have made conscientious decisions to use,” but about “the freedom of a religious organization to live its mission.” It’s also about deftly “playing political football,” says NCR‘s Ken Briggs. Jenkins is taking steps to “win the cheers of bishops who remain resentful of the university’s awarding of an honorary degree to President Obama in 2009.”

Will this affect the presidential election? It certainly may be “a ‘come to Jesus’ moment for many Catholics,” and could even “cast Catholics off from the Democratic Party for a generation,” says Ed Morrissey at Hot Air. Not so fast, says Michael O’Brien at MSNBC. The latest Gallup poll has Romney and Obama tied among Catholics, each with 46 percent. Will Romney will try to use the contraception mandate to chip away at Obama’s Catholic supporters? Yes, he’s already trying. But predicting the “Catholic vote” is “a fool’s errand.”

Sources: AP, Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor, Commonweal (2), Hot Air, Fox News, MSNBC, National Catholic Reporter (2), National Journal, Notre Dame, Patheos, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post (2)


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