Nashville Diocese and Other Tenn. Agencies Sue Over HHS Mandate

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CNS) – The Diocese of Nashville and seven of the Catholic entities operating in middle Tennessee have filed suit in federal court to block implementation of a mandate by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services requiring them to cover services they find morally objectionable.

The mandate, which went into effect Aug. 1 as part of the health care reform law, requires all employers to provide coverage in their health care plans for contraceptives, including some that can cause abortions and sterilizations. The mandate has a limited religious exemption that would protect only Catholic institutions that seek to inculcate Catholic values and primarily employ and serve Catholics.

Catholic Charities of Tennessee, Father Ryan High School, Pope John Paul II High School, Mary Queen of Angels assisted living facility, Villa Maria Manor and St. Mary Villa Child Development Center, along with Aquinas College, which is owned and operated by the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation, are all independently incorporated.

There was broad support within each of their boards of directors for filing the suits, which are similar to more than a dozen others filed around the country in late May and August.

Nashville Bishop David R. Choby said the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had engaged “the president and congressional leaders in Washington in a conversation which expressed our concerns and convictions. … Basically we were rebuffed.”

“We believe that our Constitution and form of government expresses the right to religious freedom. Such a right is much deeper and of greater consequence than freedom to worship,” Bishop Choby said.