Monday, May 21, 2012
Here is a link to the complaint filed this morning by the University of Notre Dame, challenging the Administration's "preventive services" mandate. Here is an excerpt from the announcement by Fr. Jenkins, the University's president, to the Faculty and Staff:
. . . Let me say very clearly what this lawsuit is not about: it is not about preventing women from having access to contraception, nor even about preventing the Government from providing such services. Many of our faculty, staff and students -- both Catholic and non-Catholic -- have made conscientious decisions to use contraceptives. As we assert the right to follow our conscience, we respect their right to follow theirs. And we believe that, if the Government wishes to provide such services, means are available that do not compel religious organizations to serve as its agents. We do not seek to impose our religious beliefs on others; we simply ask that the Government not impose its values on the University when those values conflict with our religious teachings. We have engaged in conversations to find a resolution that respects the consciences of all and we will continue to do so.
This filing is about the freedom of a religious organization to live its mission, and its significance goes well beyond any debate about contraceptives. For if we concede that the Government can decide which religious organizations are sufficiently religious to be awarded the freedom to follow the principles that define their mission, then we have begun to walk down a path that ultimately leads to the undermining of those institutions. For if one Presidential Administration can override our religious purpose and use religious organizations to advance policies that undercut our values, then surely another Administration will do the same for another very different set of policies, each time invoking some concept of popular will or the public good, with the result these religious organizations become mere tools for the exercise of government power, morally subservient to the state, and not free from its infringements. If that happens, it will be the end of genuinely religious organizations in all but name. . . .
Here is the statement of John Garvey, the President of Catholic University.
In my view, these lawsuits -- which are the result of the Administration's overreach, and not of any effort by religious institutions or leaders to "pick a fight" -- are efforts to vindicate the country’s constitutional and traditional commitments to religious freedom and pluralism.
These latest lawsuits, like the many others that had already been filed, are asking the courts to enforce the Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and to protect religious liberty and conscience from a regrettable and burdensome regulatory mandate. This mandate imposes a serious and unnecessary burden on many religious institutions’ commitments, witness, and mission. It purports to require many religious schools, health-care providers, and social-welfare agencies to compromise their institutional character and integrity. In a society that respects and values diversity, as our does, we should protect and accommodate our distinctively religious institutions, and welcome their contributions to the common good.
These lawsuits are not asking the courts to endorse the plaintiffs’ religious views, only to respect and accommodate them. Religious institutions are not seeking to control what their employees buy, use, or do in private; they are trying to avoid being conscripted by the government into acting in a way that would be inconsistent with their character, mission, and values. In a pluralistic society, people will often disagree about values and policies, and it will not always be possible to accommodate those who object in good faith to regulatory requirements. At the same time, a society like ours – with a Constitution and federal religious-freedom protections like ours – will regard it as often both wise and just to accommodate religious believers and institutions by exempting them from requirements that would force them to compromise their integrity. This is such a case. We Americans do not agree about what religious freedom means, but we have long agreed that it matters, and should be protected through law. True, there will sometimes be tension and conflict, and trade-offs and compromises. Given our deep-rooted commitment to religious freedom, though, our goal as a community should always be to strike the balance in a way that honors that commitment.