Cardinal Dolan sues Obama admin over birth control mandate
Cardinal Timothy Dolan is moving head on against the president in court to reverse the mandate for birth control options in the health care programs of the New York Archdiocese.
In a lawsuit filed Monday in Brooklyn federal court against the U.S. Department of Health and other government agencies, the region's top church official said the government is violating the church's First Amendment rights by forcing the body to go against its beliefs that contraception is immoral.
"Time is running out, and our precious ministries and fundamental rights hang in the balance, so we have to resort to the courts now," Dolan said in a statement.
Several other dioceses and Catholic organizations throughout the nation, including the University of Notre Dame, filed similar federal lawsuits Monday.
The White House declined to comment about the suits. In January, the Health Department adopted the mandate for employers to pay for contraception options in their health plans.
Following an uproar from Dolan and other Catholic leaders, President Barack Obama changed the mandate so that religious groups can opt out of the birth control option.
In the 62-page suit, the Archdiocese contends that despite the changes, the government still compromised the church's values.
Religious-based groups such as hospitals and charities aren't eligible for the exemption, and religious institutions must go through a long process to be approved for the opt-out, according to the suit.
"We have tried negotiation with the [Obama] Administration and legislation with the Congress - and will keep at it - and there's still no fix," Dolan said.
When asked about the archdiocese's lawsuit, Mayor Michael Bloomberg kept coy but said everybody is best served when religion and government are separate.
"We have some requirements that we think are necessary," he said at a news conference.
Representatives for Planned Parenthood New York blasted the archdiocese for turning the health issue into a religious issue.
Roger Rathman, a spokesman for the organization, noted that 53% of Catholic voters support the president's mandate and many New York women face economic hardship to meet their health needs.
"If this lawsuit succeeds, it will make access to affordable birth control that much more difficult, especially for those living below the poverty line in our city," Rathman said in a statement. "Women need the economic benefit provided by this regulation."