In what is being called a “landmark ruling against the HHS Mandate
,” US District Court Judge Brian Cogan ruled yesterday that the Obama Administration was wrong when it claimed that since the administration may still make adjustments to the mandate that would stop it from having any effect on the Archdiocese of New York
that any lawsuit is premature. The administration based this on what it called a “safe harbor
” that would prevent the mandate from applying to certain religious employers until August 2013.
Instead Judge Cogan said “the First Amendment does not require citizens to accept assurances from the government that, if the government later determines it has made a misstep, it will take ameliorative action.”
He added “There is no, ‘Trust us, changes are coming’ clause in the Constitution. To the contrary, the Bill of Rights itself, and the First Amendment in particular, reflect a degree of skepticism towards governmental self-restraint and self-correction.”
He also said that “ignoring the speeding train that is coming toward plaintiffs in the hope that it will stop might well be inconsistent with the fiduciary duties that plaintiffs’ directors or officers owe to their members.”
He also pointed out that the rule was announced 10 months ago and that “the Departments have had ample opportunity to enact a meaningful change to the Coverage Mandate. The fact that they have not further suggests the likelihood of injuries to plaintiffs.”
Eric Baxter, Senior Counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, who is representing the archdiocese, welcomed the decision. “We are pleased the court recognized the significant harm that the mandate is causing right now.”
It is refreshing to see a judge who is willing to correctly understand the Constitution & the limits it intends to put on government.
I suspect that the Obama Administration had hoped the courts would shut down all lawsuits. & while they have done so in some cases, the have let them go on in others. (See list here
) I suspect the reason they wanted the courts to let the mandate go into effect before there were any ruling was so that they could then claim it was too late since they were already (hopefully) all complying. Or at least enough of the "Catholic in Name Only" Hospitals etc were so they could say, why is the Church & others claiming this is a burden or infringement? Clearly it isn't if these "Catholic" employeers are going along.
I also hope that the Catholic dioceses of Pittsburgh and Nashville will again file appeals with this new ruling. Their previous lawsuits were dismissed recently after judges agreed with the Obama administration that the suits were premature. However, the courts did not preclude the possibility that the dioceses could bring forward lawsuits after the mandate takes effect. With the fact that another judge has said they aren't premature could allow them to appeal to the Supreme Court to overrule those rulings forcing them to wait.
The battle is still far from over. & it will end up in the Supreme Court eventually. Hopefully, they will throw the mandate out not only for the Catholic Church but for any Christian business or college, like Hobby Lobby, Tyndale or Wheaton College.
I conclude with what Bill Donohue of the Catholic League
had to say about the decision
. “Not only did the Obama administration lose, it got a well deserved lecture from the bench: it was taken to task for misrepresenting the current burdens that the HHS mandate has placed on the New York Archdiocese.
The Obama team tried to have it both ways, and it failed. On the one hand, it ordered Catholic entities to get ready to implement the mandate, and on the other hand it said that because some modifications may yet be made, complaints that the mandate has already burdened the archdiocese are baseless. But U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan wasn’t buying it.
Judge Cogan said the Obama administration’s arguments “ring hollow.” He quoted the HHS Interim Final Rules back to the Obama lawyers; they hung themselves with their own wording. The Rules made clear that “these interim final regulations require significant lead time to implement,” emphasizing that “in order to allow plans and health insurance coverage to be designed and implemented on a timely basis, regulations must be published and available to the public well in advance of the effective date of the requirements.”
It is impossible to improve on Judge Cogan’s ruling when he said “the First Amendment does not require citizens to accept assurances from the government that, if the government later determines it has made a misstep, it will take ameliorative action. There is no ‘Trust us, changes are coming’ clause in the Constitution. To the contrary, the Bill of Rights itself, and the First Amendment in particular, reflect a degree of skepticism towards government self-restraint and self-correction.”