STEUBENVILLE - Franciscan University of Steubenville announced today that it has filed a federal lawsuit against Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and the Obama administration.
The lawsuit, which was unanimously approved by Franciscan's Board of Trustees, challenges the Obama administration's unprecedented mandate that attacks the freedom to practice religion without government interference.
Under the HHS mandate, employers must provide insurance coverage that includes abortion-inducing drugs, as well as contraceptives and sterilization procedures. Franciscan University maintains that the requirement to fund and facilitate such activities violates its core religious and moral convictions as a Catholic university.
"Franciscan University's mission is and always has been to teach from the heart of the Church," said University President Father Terence Henry, TOR.
"The Obama administration's mandate is a grave threat to our ability to carry out that mission. It makes it impossible for us to operate freely as a Catholic institution without overbearing and invasive governmental interference," Henry said.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, seeks to have the mandate declared unconstitutional and enjoin the government from enforcing the requirement.
In addition to Franciscan University's lawsuit, 42 other separate plaintiffs filed a total of 12 lawsuits today in U.S. District courts around the country. Those plaintiffs are all Catholic organizations and include Catholic dioceses, schools, universities, and charitable organizations.
Numbered among the plaintiffs are the Archdioceses of New York, Washington, D.C., and St. Louis, as well as the Dioceses of Dallas, Ft. Worth, Rockville Centre, Pittsburgh, and the Michigan Catholic Conference, which represents all seven dioceses in the state.
"The Church is speaking with one unified voice on this issue," said Father Henry.
"Every single American bishop has condemned this unjust mandate as an unconscionable violation of religious liberty. If allowed to stand, it will coerce Christians into cooperating with acts that violate core tenets of our faith."
Franciscan University took a public stand opposing the proposed rule. Then, as now, Franciscan University objected to the mandate, noting that the government placed it and other religious institutions in an untenable position.
"Throughout our 65-year history, Franciscan University has educated people because we are Catholic, not because they are. And, again, because we are Catholic, Franciscan cannot provide coverage of drugs and procedures that violate Church teachings on the sanctity of life," Father Henry said. "Under the HHS mandate and its narrow exemption, the government punishes us for reaching out to serve and employ those who do not share our faith," Henry noted.
"It is our hope and fervent prayer that the courts and Congress will check this monumental overstep of the Executive Branch as soon as possible," he added.
"Under no circumstances can Catholics be both in compliance with this new law and at the same time live the faith that we believe. Franciscan University will continue to stand with the Church in its opposition to this mandate. Our ancestors came to America because they knew that on these shores they would be free to faithfully live what they believed. This mandate is not only a grave infringement on religious liberty; it is a betrayal of those who sacrificed to make this country what it is today," Henry declared.