Judge nixes deadline for Franciscan to provide contraceptives to employees

2013-12-31T17:50:00Z 2014-01-01T21:13:11Z Judge nixes deadline for Franciscan to provide contraceptives to employeesTimes Staff nwitimes.com
December 31, 2013 5:50 pm  • 

A judge's order has blocked a federal mandate that would have required Franciscan Alliance to begin providing contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs to its employees free of charge starting Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Jon DeGuilio on Friday issued a preliminary injunction against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Treasury prohibiting the departments from applying or enforcing the requirement on Franciscan Alliance.

Franciscan was initially granted an exemption from the federal requirement as a nonprofit with religious beliefs that prohibit abortion and the use of contraception.

Franciscan joined with other religion-based nonprofits in Indiana and Illinois and filed suit in federal court, citing constitutional protection under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

In his ruling, DeGuilio noted exempting churches from the mandate but not church-backed nonprofits would require them to "facilitate and serve as the conduit through which objectionable contraceptive products and services are ultimately provided to their employees, in violation of their unquestionably sincerely held religious beliefs."

"We simply asked that the government not impose its values and policies on plaintiffs, in direct violation of our religious beliefs," said Kevin Leahy, Franciscan Alliance president and chief executive officer, in a statement issued Tuesday.

Sister Jane Marie Klein, chairwoman of Franciscan Alliance's board of trustees, said the injunction allows the organization to continue its mission.

"We have adhered to the tenets of the Catholic faith and continue to look to our sponsor, the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, for guidance in continuing its 138-year history of providing health care to those we are privileged to serve in the United States."

Franciscan Alliance operates health care facilities in Northwest Indiana, including Franciscan St. Anthony Health hospitals in Crown Point and Michigan City and Franciscan St. Margaret Health hospitals in Dyer and Hammond. It also operates St. James Health hospitals in Chicago Heights and Olympia Fields in Illinois.

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