ACLU lawsuit may determine whether those getting federal dollars can limit services for religious reasons
Posted by Ann Corcoran on December 16, 2011
Here we go again, more about how the US Conference of Catholic Bishops wants its cake and eat it too! Bottom line Bishops—do your good works without taking taxpayer money!
WASHINGTON — A lawsuit pending in a Massachusetts federal court may determine if the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services can allow religiously based restrictions on reproductive health services in agreements with private agencies to provide social services.
The suit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in Boston in January 2009, stems from a now ended five-year contract that HHS signed with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to provide case management services to foreign-born victims of human trafficking through its Migration and Refugee Services.
ACLU claims that the bishops’ conference dictated terms of the contract it received from the government to serve trafficking victims in violation of the separation of church and state provisions of the U.S. Constitution. ACLU attorneys maintain that the government, because it is spending taxpayer dollars, must set the terms of the contract.
Michael O. Leavitt, then Secretary of Health and Human Services, was named as the chief defendant. Since then Kathleen Sebelius, current health and human services secretary, has replaced Leavitt as the government’s defendant.
The USCCB joined the case as an intervenor and, through its attorney, argued that its intention under the contract not to fund abortion or contraceptive services was permitted because of religious freedom and conscience provisions in federal law.
The parties submitted final arguments to Judge Richard G. Stearns Oct. 18. He is expected to issue his decision early in 2012.
The contract in question, which expired Oct. 10, permitted MRS to adhere to church teaching and restrict agencies subcontracted to work with trafficking victims from providing services that were contrary to church teaching.
ACLU attorney Brigitte Amiri told CNS the case was filed because it is not the government’s prerogative to restrict access to health services that are legal.
“We believe it’s a violation of the separation of church and state to allow a religious entity to dictate the terms of a federal contract on how money should be spent,” Amiri said. “Not all trafficking victims need such services, but they need a host of reproductive services including contraception and, if pregnant, abortion.”
She added that the civil liberties organization found it “disturbing that the Catholic bishops forced this on the case managers even if they themselves have no objection to referring for such services.”
There is more, read on.
I used to think it was terribly cynical when people said it’s “all about the money,” but as time goes on, I’m sad to say it’s true more often then not.
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