Ave Maria University files second lawsuit against feds over contraception

9:51 AM, Aug 30, 2013   |    comments
Library inside Ave Maria University
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Naples, Florida (News-Press) -- Five months after their original case was dismissed, Ave Maria University in Naples has again filed suit against the federal government.

Their charge: President Obama's health care overhaul violates the school's religious beliefs because it allows women access to free contraceptives.

Ave Maria's first attempt to quash required implementation of the Affordable Care Act was filed in February 2012 and thrown out by a U.S. district court judge in April.

As part of Obama's health care overhaul, a federal mandate requires nearly all health care plans to eventually pay for contraception and sterilization.

Ave Maria President Jim Towey reiterated Thursday what he said last year when the original suit was filed: University officials find it objectionable the federal government asks them to be complicit in providing and paying for birth control.

The judge upon dismissing the case said the government was continuing its efforts to work with the school and the regulations for the overhaul were not yet finalized.

Towey said Thursday he believes the government made no effort to compromise or accommodate the school's religious beliefs.

The school says the mandate will be in full effect on Jan. 1, and if it does not comply, the university says it faces fines of $100 a day, per employee. The school of about 870 students employs around 140. The current insurance plans do not provide
contraception, Viagra or vasectomy.

"Where would $7 million come from? From Heaven? I don't know where the money would come from," Towey said. "To try to cover a fine like this ... I have a hard time imagining how that's in the best interest of the country to shut down a university that's adhering to its own religious beliefs."

Bishop Frank Dewane of the Diocese of Venice last year sent a letter to Catholics urging them to fight.

"We cannot - we will not - comply with this unjust law. People of faith cannot be made second-class citizens. Do not be misled by attempts to turn this into a debate about church teaching or the morality of contraception. The issue here is religious liberty and freedom of conscience," he wrote.

The university has enlisted help of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which has won several cases regarding First Amendment rights.

Towey said next week the school will file a preliminary injunction on the mandate.

Various studies say the overwhelming majority of Catholic women practice birth control, and a poll released last year showed 58 percent of Catholics believed their employers should be required to provide health plans that cover contraception.

"The issue is not about contraception, the issue is about religious liberty," Towey said after filing of the first lawsuit. "The fact that we have individuals using birth control is their personal choice.

"That is why we are fighting it, and we will fight it to the end, and if it means that ultimately the university will no longer provide health care insurance for its employees, then that's what we'll do."

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