Franciscan University Reacts to Latest HHS Mandate Ruling| Franciscan University of Steubenville
  • Franciscan University Reacts to Latest HHS Mandate Ruling

    First filed in 2012, Franciscan University intends to refile our lawsuit when the time is right.

    August 26, 2014

    STEUBENVILLE, OH—Franciscan University of Steubenville joins a chorus of other religious groups and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to express strong disappointment over the latest proposed changes to the HHS mandate, announced August 22 by the federal government.

    "We were hoping that the Obama administration was going to finally listen to the thousands of people who have been urging them to respect religious liberty and exempt us from this mandate. We're disappointed they refused to do so," said Father Sean O. Sheridan, TOR, president of Franciscan University.

    The new regulations require qualifying nonprofit religious groups, such as Franciscan University, to notify the federal government of their objections to the federal mandate. The government will then designate insurers or third-party administrators to assume the costs of services Franciscan University is adamantly opposed to, primarily sterilization, contraception, and drugs that can cause an abortion.

    Father Sheridan agreed with the assessment of Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, that the new regulations should be evaluated according to the principles set forth in "United for Religious Freedom," a March 2012 statement of the USCCB Administrative Committee that was later affirmed unanimously by the body of bishops at the General Assembly of June 2012.

    "Having worked long and hard to build up America and cultivate a tradition of religious freedom, Catholics now find themselves under attack by the government we've long served. We had hoped for a total exemption from this mandate, not only for Franciscan University as a religious employer, but for all employers with closely-held religious objections to the mandate," Father Sheridan said. "We will continue to evaluate these latest developments and be ready to re-file our lawsuit at the appropriate time."

    In 2012, Franciscan University filed a federal lawsuit against then-Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and the Obama administration seeking to have the HHS contraception mandate declared unconstitutional and to enjoin the government from enforcing the requirement that employers provide insurance coverage that includes abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilization procedures.

    The case was dismissed in 2013 on the grounds that the University had yet to be injured by the HHS mandate. A grandfather clause allows the University to maintain its current health insurance plan, which does not include the morally objectionable services.

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