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Nashville Catholic nonprofits fight mandate

Associated Press Modified: November 15, 2012 at 6:01 pm •  Published: November 15, 2012

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A group of Roman Catholic nonprofit organizations in Nashville is asking a federal judge to prevent the government from forcing them to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees.

Several similar cases around the country have been dismissed because the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act is currently under revision and is not being enforced for nonprofit organizations with a religious objection to it. But attorney Matt Kairis argued on Thursday that this case is different.

Kairis, representing the Diocese of Nashville, claimed that local nonprofits already have been injured by the mandate — a requirement for a judge to grant an injunction.

Kairis pointed specifically to three of the plaintiffs: the Villa Maria Manor, Mary Queen of Angels and the St. Mary Villa Child Development Center.

"The three Marys are, as we stand here today, providing service to which they have a religious objection," he said.

Kairis explained that the three nonprofits at some point started providing contraceptive coverage without realizing it. After the contraceptive mandate was announced, the public outcry led federal officials to announce a safe harbor, or a period during which the mandate would not be enforced for some religious nonprofits while officials revised it to try to accommodate their concerns.

Because the three nonprofits already were providing contraceptive coverage at that time, their insurance company determined that the safe harbor provision did not apply to them. It would not allow them to drop the coverage.

Justice Department attorney Brad Humphreys argued the Nashville case is not different from others that have been dismissed.

"It's hard to see how a court could even evaluate whether a rule that's under amendment and that's not being enforced violates plaintiffs' rights," he said.

If the three Marys are providing contraceptive coverage that they have a religious objection to, he suggested the problem was with their insurance company, not the government.

U.S. District Judge Todd Campbell did not immediately rule on the issue.

The contraceptive mandate does not apply to nonprofits that are deemed to be religious employers, typically actual churches or other houses of worship. It does apply to religious-based institutions that do not primarily serve and employ only members of their own faith group — such as hospitals and universities.


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