[JURIST] The Thomas More Law Center [advocacy website] on Wednesday filed a motion [text, PDF; press release] in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan [official website] asking the court to block a controversial employer insurance mandate, issued by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) [official website], that is scheduled to go into effect on August 1. The mandate in question [HHS press release] was added to the Patient Protection and Affordable Healthcare Act (PPACA) [text] and requires nearly all health insurance plans to cover all FDA-approved drugs, including contraception, sterilization and Plan-B-type drugs, with a narrow exception for some religious institutions. The exception only applies to organizations whose mission is strictly religious in nature and thus will not exempt Catholic schools, hospitals or universities. The Thomas More Law Center filed a lawsuit [press release] challenging the HHS mandate in May, alleging the requirement violates the First Amendment [text] right to religious freedom. The motion seeks a temporary injunction blocking enforcement of the law until the case is decided in federal court.
The HHS mandate has raised concerns in religiously affiliated institutions across the country. There are currently 24 separate lawsuits challenging the mandate. Last week, Wheaton College [official website], a Christian institution in Illinois, filed a lawsuit [press release] challenging the HHS mandate. In May, more than 40 Catholic dioceses and other Catholic institutions around the US filed lawsuits [JURIST report] against the Obama administration alleging the mandate violated their right to religious freedom. In a statement, the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, said that the lawsuit was not about access to contraception, but rather "it is about whether the government may force religious institutions and individuals to facilitate and fund services which violate their religious beliefs."