FW SB Catholic Diocese gets relief from contraception mandate

A federal judge in South Bend has provided some last minute relief to a host of Catholic entities across northern Indiana.

A preliminary injunction blocks enforcement of the so-called “contraceptive mandate” in the federal government’s Affordable Care Act.

As a result, the University of St. Francis in Fort Wayne now has what the University of Notre Dame was denied: Court ordered protection for employees from the contraception mandate due to take effect January 1st.

“I can't specifically comment on the court case with Notre Dame because I don't know the specifics but indeed, these are tumultuous times in that we ask prayers from all parties involved that you know God give us some clarity and some good judgment coming from the bench,” said Staff Director of Communications for the Fort Wayne-South Bend Catholic Diocese, Sean McBride.

While houses of worship are exempt from the mandate, the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese argued for more: Protection on behalf of a host of Catholic guided not-for-profit institutions deemed essential to carrying out the mission of the church.

The list includes the Franciscan Alliance of hospitals that runs St. Anthony in Michigan City and the Saint Anne home and retirement community in Fort Wayne

Furthermore, there’s “Our Sunday Visitor,” a publishing house in Huntington and Catholic Charities which offers a food pantry and refugee settlement.

Today the entities account for some 20,000 employees, according to court documents.

“It is very difficult to separate the entities when you talk about the Catholic Church but clearly there are service providers, there are houses of worship, there are publishing companies etcetera, the list goes on what the Catholic Church does for the greater good of society,” said McBride.

“I think this is a really important ruling on behalf of the Fort-Wayne-South Bend Diocese,” said U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski, (R) Indiana’s Second District. “I think if we see future district court rulings that support this decision which is upholding religious freedom and protecting the principals of private organizations hopefully then it will encourage the administration to reconsider the contraceptive mandate in Obamacare.”

In issuing the temporary injunction, U.S. District Court Judge Jon Deguilio addressed the federal government’s initial response to criticism over the contraception mandate and a decision to absolve religious employers from paying for that portion of employee policies.

“That the accommodation scheme allows the plaintiffs to avoid the cost of such services provides no comfort or relief. It’s the facilitation of the objectionable services, not the related cost that offends their religious beliefs.”

Less than two weeks ago, Chief Judge Philip P. Simon sitting in Hammond issued the ruling that denied injunctive relief for the University of Notre Dame.