Feb. 09--A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by six Roman Catholic institutions in Illinois against the Obama administration over the issue of birth control and the government's health insurance mandate
U.S. Judge John Darrah ruled on Friday that because the dioceses and Catholic Charities of Joliet and Springfield, as well as Catholic Charities of Chicago and St. Patrick High School on Chicago'sWest Side, had filed their lawsuits before the mandate went into effect, their complaints were premature.
Darrah's ruling comes exactly one week after the Obama administration announced it had opened the door for religious nonprofits to rely on a third-party company to cover the cost of federally approved contraception and sterilization procedures.
"Their claims of uncertainty do not meet the hardship requirement necessary to make their claims ripe for adjudication," Darrah wrote.
Since May, dozens of religious institutions have filed lawsuits, challenging the Obama administration's mandate that many religious employers offer health insurance covering contraception for women at no extra cost.
Under the rules announced last year, religiously affiliated schools, charities and hospitals would not be exempt from providing care that includes Food and Drug Administration-approved contraception and sterilization procedures, including "morning-after pills" and intrauterine devices, which some people believe cause the equivalent of abortions.
The lawsuits accused the U.S. Departments of Labor, Treasury, and Health and Human Services of violating religious liberty by defining what qualifies as a religious institution and excluding schools, hospitals and charities from that definition.
Robert Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, said he was not surprised by the ruling, which is consistent with other cases across the country.
"The 'not ripe yet' logic is consistent with what's going on in other jurisdictions," Gilligan said, pointing to one almost certain possibility. "This issue will very likely wind up in front of the U.S. Supreme Court."
Kathie Sass, a spokeswoman for the Diocese of Springfield, said she also wasn't surprised by the ruling, based on cases in other states.
"We will be carefully studying the decision before we decide what the next steps will be," she said.
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