Cardinal Suggests Legal Challenge to Contraception Mandate

In a letter he sent Friday to Catholic bishops, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, President of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, stated that, notwithstanding President Obama’s invitation to “work out the wrinkles,” talks between the Conference and the White House on the revised contraception mandate have not gone well. According to the cardinal, White House staff have stated that the Administration will not expand the the exemption for religious institutions and have suggested the bishops listen to more “enlightened” voices within Catholicism. As a result, the cardinal wrote, the Conference is considering litigation:

In the recent Hosanna-Tabor ruling, the Supreme Court unanimously defended the right of a Church to define its own ministry and services, a dramatic rebuff to the administration, apparently unheeded by the White House. Thus, our bishops’ conference, many individual religious entities, and other people of good will are working with some top-notch law firms who feel so strongly about this that they will represent us pro-bono. In the upcoming days, you will hear much more about this encouraging and welcome development.

Hosanna-Tabor  is not directly relevant to this issues surrounding the mandate, of course, but I take it the cardinal is using the case more or less rhetorically. In Hosanna-Tabor, the Court unanimously rejected the Administration’s assertion that the  Free Exercise Clause does  not apply to a church’s employment of its minsters — as the Court stated, a rather “remarkable” assertion that suggests an unfortunate antipathy for the special protection the American Constitution offers religious communities.

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