Court Rules Against Bishops In One Birth Control Fight
The Catholic Bishops battle against reproductive healthcare was dealt a significant blow on Friday
when a federal judge ruled against the bishops in a battle over whether
the group could impose its views on contraception and abortion through
its control of taxpayer dollars.
Over the last six months the bishops have argued the administration
is anti-Catholic because it refused to renew a contract with the group
to provide services to victims of human trafficking. The bishops had
been administering almost all of the federal money allocated for such
services which amounted to about $3 million a year. They would spread
that money out to subcontractors who serviced victims all over the
But like all grants from the bishops, these dollars came with
strings. The bishops prohibited the contractors from using the federal
funds to pay for staff time to counsel victims on contraception or
abortion, or to refer them for such services.
The ACLU sued HHS over the grants arguing the rules violated
constitutional prohibitions on church and state. And while that case was
working its way through the court system the Obama administration
decided not to renew the bishops’ contract, mostly because they refused
to provide these critical reproductive health services that trafficking
On Friday a federal judge validated that position, siding with the ACLU on the contract.
The bishops can’t be happy about this decision. Even though they no
longer had the contract since the Obama administration cancelled it,
they had joined with the ACLU in asking the court to resolve the
constitutional issue. Which it did, just not in the bishops’ favor.
The significance of the ruling can’t be understated. It calls into
question the entire basis of the federal faith-based contracting
initiative, created under George W. Bush that gives religious
institutions almost carte blanche to administer federal taxpayer dollars in the name of social service administration.
The decision will likely be appealed but it shows, once again, that
the right’s insistence that its religious rights are under attack is
nothing more than their misunderstanding of the scope of what those
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