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Wyoming Catholic College Already Has Its Temporary Injunction

Kevin Roberts, Courtesy Wyoming Community College

The Wyoming Catholic College has won a battle with the federal government without firing so much as a legal brief about mandated health insurance compliance with the Affordable Care Act, its president said.

“Religious liberty is such an important part to not only who we are as a college but also as Americans,” Kevin Roberts said Thursday. “We’re very grateful for this temporary protection.”

The Lander-based college and other Catholic plaintiffs filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in March asking the U.S. District Court in Wyoming to block enforcement of the act that could force them to use third-party insurers that offer — contrary to church teachings — contraception and abortion services.

But U.S. attorneys representing the government say in a footnote in the motion that a temporary injunction is already in effect only for the college. The college has a self-insured plan through Christian Brothers, which is subject to a temporary injunction issued by the U.S. Supreme Court in a similar case brought by the Little Sisters of the Poor. That case is before the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

A federal judge has not formally ruled that Wyoming Catholic College already has the benefit of the other injunction.

But the U.S. Department of Justice’s stance works for now, Roberts said.

“Justice department officials’ understanding is this is legally binding,” he said. “We do not have to comply with the mandate until further notice.”

However, those officials did not agree that this exception applied to the other plaintiffs in the original late January lawsuit filed in January. The other plaintiffs are the Catholic Diocese of Cheyenne, which covers all of Wyoming; Catholic Charities of Wyoming; Saint Joseph’s Children’s Home in Torrington; St. Anthony’s Tri-Parish Catholic School in Casper, and John Paul II Catholic School in Gillette.

Defendants include the U.S. departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and the Treasury; and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

According to plaintiff’s attorney Paul Hickey of Cheyenne, the federal government created an exemption for plans sponsored by “so-called ‘religious employers,.” The motion for the injunction claims that exemption is defined “to protect only ‘the unique relationship between a house of worship and its employees in ministerial positions,’” Hickey wrote.

However, ministries of the diocese include educational and charitable services outside the scope of “a house of worship,” Hickey wrote.

The U.S. Attorney’s office for Wyoming has until April 15 to file its response. U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl will hold a hearing for the preliminary injunction motion at 1 p.m. May 7 in federal court in Casper.

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