Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh is vowing to fight on after a federal judge dismissed the diocese’s lawsuit against the birth control mandate on the grounds that they had not yet been harmed by the law.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review is reporting that U.S. District Judge Terrence F. McVerry ruled in a 28-page opinion that the diocese has not yet suffered any harm by the mandate as it does not take effect until January 1, 2014.
“While I am disappointed in the ruling that our lawsuit cannot proceed at this time based on the very narrow argument that we allegedly have no real damages yet from the Health and Human Services mandate, I am very encouraged that it was ‘dismissed without prejudice,’” Bishop Zubik said in a statement issued shortly after the ruling. “That means that we have every right to file again in the future.”
And he intends to do just that.
“Other courts have reached differing conclusions in the challenges to the HHS mandate, so this remains fluid,” Zubik said. “I do want to make clear, however, that we cannot and will not negotiate away our constitutional rights to religious freedom and religious expression.”
At the present time, more than 110 plaintiffs in 40 separate cases are challenging the HHS mandate that would force religious employers to provide insurance coverage for health care services that violate the tenets of their faith.
Thus far, three courts have ruled in favor of businesses that were seeking relief from the mandate and seven courts dismissed challenges, mostly on the basis that the plaintiffs had not yet suffered any harm – rulings which leave the door wide open for future litigation.
Horace Cooper, a legal expert and fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research in Washington, a conservative think tank, told the Tribune that the judge’s decision “is only a temporary success for the administration.”
“This is not a win on the merit of the law. These challenges are ultimately going to get heard on their merit and on their merit they’re ultimately going to prevail. They’re going to rule this mandate overreaches and runs afoul of the First Amendment,” he said.
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