AROUND MISSISSIPPI — Ten Catholic groups in Mississippi are suing the Obama administration over a mandate that most employers provide birth control coverage as part of health insurance plans.
Roman Catholic groups across the nation filed 12 lawsuits yesterday. One was filed in federal court in the southern half of Mississippi.
“This lawsuit is an attempt to vindicate one of America’s most fundamental freedoms: the freedom to practice religion without governmental interference,” says the Mississippi lawsuit filed by the Catholic dioceses of Biloxi and Jackson and other groups, including St. Dominic-Jackson Memorial Hospital.
The lawsuit also says abortion, sterilization and contraception are “contrary to core Catholic doctrine.”
“Plaintiffs acknowledge that individuals in this country have a legal right to these medical services; they are, and will continue to be, freely available in the United States, and nothing prevents the government itself from making them more widely available,” the lawsuit says. “But the right to such services does not authorize the government to co-opt religious entities into providing or facilitating access to them.”
The U.S. Health and Human Services Department says it adopted the mandate for birth control coverage as a way to improve health care by allowing women to have more control over the timing of pregnancies. Leaders from several religious groups, including Catholics, have criticized the policy since President Barack Obama announced it in January.
The original rule includes a religious exemption that allows houses of worship to opt-out of the mandate, but keeps the requirement in place for religiously affiliated charities.
In response to the political backlash, Obama offered to soften the rule so that insurers would pay for birth control instead of religious groups. However, the bishops and others have said that the accommodation doesn’t go far enough.
The other plaintiffs for the Mississippi lawsuit are:
— Resurrection and Sacred Heart Catholic schools, which are part of the Biloxi Diocese.
— Two groups affiliated with the Biloxi Diocese, Catholic Social and Community Services Inc., and L’Epee Deaf Center Inc.
— Vicksburg Catholic School Inc. and St. Joseph Catholic School, which are part of the Jackson Diocese.
— Catholic Charities Inc., which is affiliated with the Jackson Diocese.