Nashville Catholic groups sue over federal mandate - WSMV Channel 4

Nashville Catholic groups sue over federal mandate

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The battle over what religious organizations must offer in terms of birth control has several Catholic institutions in Nashville suing the government.

The Diocese of Nashville, along with seven other Catholic entities in Middle Tennessee, are suing the federal government over the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Health Care Act.

They said the new health care law violates the church's beliefs and religious liberty.

The big concern among Christian-based groups is that the law requires group insurance policies to cover FDA-approved contraceptives, including the "morning-after" pill, and some groups feel that steps on their religious rights.

"Regardless of your state in life, human dignity - human life - has to be respected from conception until natural death. That is where the violation comes in with the morning-after pill, the abortions and contraception," said Sister Mary Sarah Galbraith, president of Aquinas College.

The lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services clearly states it is about the freedom to practice one's religion without government interference.

"Once the federal government is able to dictate to the church what services it either pays for or provides, then it will be a logical step for the federal government to require Catholic hospitals to perform abortions or other procedures that contradict our moral values," said Bishop David Choby, with the Diocese of Nashville.

Churches are exempt from this contraception mandate, but the seven local Catholic entities included in the lawsuit - Mary Queen of Angels, St. Mary Villa, Villa Maria Manor, Catholic Charities of Tennessee, Father Ryan High School, Pope John Paul II High School and Aquinas College - would have to pay for the coverage.

Mary Queen of Angels, St. Mary Villa and Villa Maria Manor already have a policy with this coverage.

"We've asked to be exempt from those provisions and to have it stricken from the policies, and the carrier is saying that they cannot do it because of the Affordable Care Act," Choby said.

Other women's rights advocates stand behind the new law.

"Reproductive health care is essential health care for women," said Steven Emmert, with Planned Parenthood. "Women would no longer have to decide whether to pay the water bill or get their birth control."

Church officials insist this is not an attack on women who do have the right to contraception, but rather a stand for religious freedom.

The seven Catholic entities included on the lawsuit have both Catholics and non-Catholics on staff.

Besides the lawsuit, church leaders also hope the upcoming presidential election will help their case.

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