A Catholic priest’s group says it will defy an appeals court’s order that it comply with Obamacare’s mandate to provide birth control coverage for its employees, rejecting the judges’ Friday ruling.
The Rev. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, said it will refuse to follow the ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit after a three-judge panel ruled the priest group must write a letter or fill out a two-page form to opt out of the mandate.
But Father Pavone said filling out those forms acts as a trigger, which, according to Catholic Church teaching, would still constitute cooperation with any birth control the employees got. The church teaches both that contraception is always immoral and that directly helping others commit evil acts is itself immoral.
“As we have said from the beginning, Priests for Life will not obey the HHS mandate,” Father Pavone said. “To ask a group of priests to cooperate in the government’s plan to expand access to birth control and abortion-inducing drugs is about as contrary to religious freedom as you can get.”
The refusal underscores the Obama administration’s years-long struggle to allay nonprofits’ moral objections to the mandate.
On two occasions, it has offered an olive branch to religious universities, charities and hospitals that object to the mandate. The opt-out clauses, which would absolve the nonprofits from paying for contraception while making sure their employees still obtained the drugs and services, have been rebuffed both times.
The D.C. Circuit, in a 3-0 decision from three judges appointed by Democratic presidents, said the nonprofits’ objections are unwarranted.
“Religious nonprofits that opt out are excused from playing any role in the provision of contraceptive services, and they remain free to condemn contraception in the clearest terms,” wrote Circuit Judge Cornelia T. L. Pillard, who was nominated by President Obama.
Religious nonprofits insist they deserve a blanket exemption from the mandate. They point to a Supreme Court ruling in June that allowed closely held corporations that object to certain forms of birth control on moral grounds to duck the Obamacare mandate.
The 5-to-4 Hobby Lobby decision ruled that corporations are protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.
However in applying that decision, Judge Pillard wrote Friday the Obama administration’s regulations “do not impose a substantial burden” on the nonprofits under RFRA.
She was joined by two other judges nominated by Democratic presidents — Judith W. Rogers, a Clinton appointee, and Robert L. Wilkins, another Obama appointee.
A Washington Times analysis from August of the votes cast on Obamacare issues by dozens of federal judges in appellate courts shows that while Democratic and Republican appointees were evenly represented, their rulings differed dramatically. Democratic appointees backed Obamacare more than 90 percent of the time, while Republican appointees ruled against it nearly 80 percent of the time.