The University of Notre Dame has lost its appeal to be granted an injunction against the Health and Human Services mandate that requires employer-sponsored health insurance plans to provide free access to contraceptives. Notre Dame, a Catholic university, sought the injunction claiming that the law violated its religious beliefs. On February 21, a Court of Appeals upheld a District Court ruling which had denied the university’s request for an injunction. The Catholic Church has long been opposed to this mandate, which goes against its deeply-rooted religious belief that the use of contraceptives is sinful in nature. The University of Notre Dame, as an established Catholic institution, feels, rightfully, that it should not be required to abide by the mandate, as it violates the First Amendment and the Constitutional right to freedom of religion.
The ruling on February 21 was a two-to-one ruling, with the dissenting vote agreeing with Notre Dame that as long as it abides by its Catholic beliefs against contraceptives, the university has a Constitutional right to not abide by the mandate. The university plans to file additional appeals until its right to practice the Catholic teachings, which it has abided by for over 170 years, are legally recognized.
The University of Notre Dame is joining a growing list of groups, which are not formally identified as a church, but which practice a particular set of religious teachings, that are opposed to this mandate. The U.S. Government seems to feel that if an organization is not a formally recognized church, the separation of Church and State does not apply to that organization. However, it should not be a matter of formal recognition as a Church, it should be a matter of any organization’s Constitutional right to freely practice their religious beliefs, especially when those beliefs are in direct contrast with something that the State is forcing upon that organization, providing that the disagreement is not in violation of laws put in place for the safety of the citizens.
The University of Notre Dame has the right to practice its Catholic faith as a Catholic institution. The university will continue to fight for its guaranteed rights, along with countless other religious-based groups and organizations, against the HHS mandate. It is hoped that sense will prevail among the justices hearing these numerous cases, and they will recognize that standing against the mandate on religious grounds is an expression of the freedom of religion which has been given to Americans since the beginning of this nation’s history.