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Notre Dame petitions for new hearing in HHS lawsuit

| Monday, April 7, 2014

Lawyers representing Notre Dame in its Affordable Care Act lawsuit filed a petition in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit seeking a rehearing in front of the whole court instead of a panel of three judges.

The petition, submitted by attorney Matthew Kairis and filed Friday, argues that the panel’s Feb. 21 opinion denying the University an exemption contradicts Supreme Court precedent and legal standards.

“The panel majority should have accepted Notre Dame’s honest and undisputed assertion that it has a religious objection to taking the actions necessary to comply with the ‘accommodation,’” the petition reads. “By refusing to accept that assertion, and instead engaging in a protracted quarrel with Notre Dame’s description of its own religious beliefs, the panel majority strayed well beyond the proper realm of legal inquiry.”

hhs_mandate_graphic_feb23_UPDATEErin Rice | The Observer

Paul Browne, Notre Dame’s vice president for public affairs and communications told The Observer on Monday that “at its core, this is a religious liberty issue.”

Notre Dame’s lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services argues that the provision of the Affordable Care Act that orders health care plans to cover contraceptives violates its religious beliefs, even if the University isn’t paying for the coverage, according to a report in the South Bend Tribune. Last summer’s revisions to the law enable religious nonprofit organizations to shift the cost for contraceptives to the government or to a third-party health care administrator by submitting an opt-out form.  Notre Dame currently provides the coverage through Meritain Health.

The appellate court’s February ruling upheld a decision by a U.S. district judge in South Bend that denied Notre Dame a preliminary injunction that would have allowed the University’s health care plan to refrain from covering contraceptives until the case is resolved, according to the Tribune.

The petition states that the appeal is especially important because the panel majority’s “erroneous new legal standard … casts secular courts in the untenable and unconstitutional role of arbiters of religious doctrine.”

The full text of the petition can be found online.

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About Ann Marie Jakubowski

Senior News Writer, formerly Editor-in-Chief. English and Spanish double major, minor in journalism, ethics and democracy. Grand Rapids, Mich., native. Notre Dame Class of 2015.

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