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U.S. Attorney Responds to Lawsuit by Cheyenne Diocese

Scales and gavel
James Steidl, ThinkStock

The U.S. Attorney of Wyoming on Monday urged Catholic organizations in Wyoming to take a chill pill, because the Affordable Care Act doesn’t require them — contrary to their concerns — to offer birth control services contrary to church teachings.

“They are not required to contract, arrange, or pay for contraceptive coverage,” according to U.S. Department of Justice attorneys in Wyoming and Washington, D.C.

“To the contrary, they are free to continue to refuse to do so, to voice their disapproval of contraception, and to encourage their employees to refrain from using contraceptive services,” according to the memorandum opposing a motion for preliminary injunction filed in March by the Catholic Diocese of Cheyenne and other organizations.

The organizations, according to the government, don’t need the preliminary injunction because they are already exempt from certain requirements in the Patient Prevention and Affordable Care Act, nicknamed Obamacare.

The plaintiffs filed their lawsuit in January and the motion for a preliminary injunction to block certain consequences of the act set to go into effect July 1. The other plaintiffs are Catholic Charities of Wyoming; Saint Joseph’s Children’s Home in Torrington; St. Anthony’s Tri-Parish Catholic School in Casper, John Paul II Catholic School in Gillette, and the Wyoming Catholic College in Lander.

Contrary to government assertions, the Catholic organizations will not be exempt from the requirements of the ACA, according to their attorney Paul Hickey. The exemptions apply,  “to protect only ‘the unique relationship between a house of worship and its employees in ministerial positions,’” and not ministries such as educational and charitable services.

Not so, according to the government.

The act does not infringe on their rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the U.S. attorneys wrote. “In sum, the challenged regulations do not impose a substantial burden on plaintiff’s religious exercise.”

The next major event in the case will occur May 7, when U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl will hold a hearing about  the preliminary injunction filed in March.

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