A federal judge has granted a temporary reprieve to Catholic groups in Erie and Pittsburgh, Pa., saying that the groups don’t have to comply with the health care law that says employers must provide birth control coverage to employees.
The ruling is temporary while their cases are appealed to higher courts.
Under President Barack Obama’s health care law, employers must provide birth control to their employees, including drugs such as the morning-after pill. The mandate is effective Jan. 1. Churches are exempt from the mandate, but organizations such as the Pittsburgh Catholic Charities are not.
"Why should religious employers who provide the charitable and educational services of the Catholic Church be required to facilitate/initiate the provision of contraceptive products, services and counseling ... when religious employers who operate the houses of worship do not?" U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab wrote in the injunction. "To this question, the government does not provide a direct answer."
The dioceses filed for the injunctions in October, arguing that the mandate violates their First Amendment right to freedom of religion because the Catholic Church does not approve of artificial birth control.
“The issue with the services in the mandate is that they either go against preservation of human life or involve the actual taking of human life,” Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese leader Bishop David Zubik told the court.
Under the health care law’s penalties, Catholic Charities would be fined $100 per employee per day if they do not comply with the mandate.