A U.S. District Court judge today dismissed Franciscan University of Steubenville’s lawsuit against the HHS contraceptive mandate. This is not a defeat on the actual merits of the case but simply on the issue of timing or what smarty pants lawyer types call “ripeness.”
“This is in no way a loss. The judge did not rule on the merits of our case and dismissed our lawsuit for ripeness, so Franciscan University has every right—and I would add, the duty—to re-file our lawsuit at the appropriate time,” said Father Terence Henry, TOR, president of Franciscan University of Steubenville.
Last year, Franciscan University dropped its requirement for student health insurance due to moral and economic concerns connected to the HHS mandate. Shortly after that the faithful Catholic university filed the federal lawsuit against the mandate.
Father Henry took issue with the dismissal of the University’s lawsuit on the grounds of ripeness. “Franciscan University’s employee health insurance plans hold ‘grandfathered’ status, but this does not mean we have experienced no harm from the HHS mandate. Right now, being grandfathered ties our hands,” Father Henry explained. “Since many changes to our plan would cause it to lose grandfathered status, it denies both our employees and the University opportunities to save money and enact plan changes appropriate to our changing needs for coverage. In effect, this makes us second-class citizens because of our faith.”
The judge Algenon Marbley, a Clinton appointee, decided that the Obama administration has promised to protect religious institutions by amending the regulations so the lawsuit couldn’t go forward. So in effect the judge is ruling not based on the law that’s actually on the books but some words that Obama read off his teleprompter.
This is the Obama administration’s version of running out the clock. With that logic, as long as Obama keeps promising to change the law nobody can move forward with their lawsuit.
Franciscan promises not to be swayed and vows to fight on. “We will not stop fighting this unjust mandate, and we are in this for the long haul,” Father Henry said. “We are very confident in the merits of our case, and we will continue to do everything in our power to protect our constitutional right to religious freedom.”