Ave Maria University Files Second Lawsuit Against HHS Mandate

A Florida Catholic academic institute has filed a second lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services' abortion-drug "accommodation."

Ave Maria University, a recently founded institute located in Naples, filed the suit Thursday in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Ft. Myers Division.

"The University's sincere religious beliefs forbid it from facilitating, participating in, paying for, training others to engage in, or otherwise supporting contraception, sterilization, or abortion," reads the suit in part.

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"The University cannot fulfill its mission of preparing students to impact the world by living their Christian values if it violates its own religious convictions by complying with the challenged regulations and facilitating access to contraception, sterilization, or abortion, or related counseling and services."

Ave Maria is being represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a religious freedom group that is overseeing several lawsuits against HHS over the controversial mandate.

Eric Baxter, senior counsel at the Becket Fund, told The Christian Post the reasons behind the dismissal of the first lawsuit.

"That case was dismissed after the government promised to change the regulations to accommodate the beliefs of religious organizations like Ave Maria," said Baxter.

"Unfortunately, the government failed to keep its promise--the new regulations still force Ave Maria against its conscience to participate in the government's scheme for facilitating access to contraception, sterilization, and abortion-causing drugs and devices."

In late June, HHS announced the details of its final rule on contraception coverage in light of religious liberty concerns voiced by several businesses and churches.

"Today's announcement reinforces our commitment to respect the concerns of houses of worship and other non-profit religious organizations that object to contraceptive coverage, while helping to ensure that women get the care they need, regardless of where they work," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

According to an HHS press release, the final rule applied a "simpler" definition for what constituted a "religious employer," which would include both houses of worship and nonprofit religious organizations.

"With respect to an insured health plan, including a student health plan, the non-profit religious organization provides notice to its insurer that it objects to contraception coverage," reads the HHS press release in part.

"The insurer then notifies enrollees in the health plan that it is providing them separate no-cost payments for contraceptive services for as long as they remain enrolled in the health plan."

Despite the alternative routes to providing contraceptives, entities like Ave Maria still find the HHS mandate to be in opposition to their religious viewpoints and find compelling other entities to do what they find objectionable to be a violation of their conscience.

"Ave Maria's religious beliefs concerning the sanctity of life forbid it from facilitating access to contraception, sterilization, and abortion-causing drugs and devices," said Baxter.

"Ave Maria does not dictate the decisions its employees make, but it cannot be forced to maintain a healthcare plan that violates its religious convictions."

Should Ave Maria fail to be given a full exemption from the HHS mandate, beginning in 2014 it will be compelled to pay a fine of up-to $15,000 a day until it is found in compliance.

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