Notre Dame contraception lawsuit to be heard in Hammond court

2012-07-02T21:00:00Z 2012-07-03T11:24:04Z Notre Dame contraception lawsuit to be heard in Hammond courtBy Sarah Tompkins, (219) 836-3780

HAMMOND | The national debate over religious freedom and health care reform will play out locally in a Hammond federal court case filed by the University of Notre Dame.

Notre Dame filed the complaint in May claiming the U.S. government mandate that health insurance provide preventive care — including "abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and contraception" — violates the university's constitutional right to freedom of religion.

According to current law, Notre Dame would be required to offer its employees and students health insurance for services such as contraception that go against the Catholic university's religious beliefs. If not, the university would incur a fine of $100 per day per individual, according to the complaint.

"This lawsuit is about one of America's most cherished freedoms: the freedom to practice one's religion without government interference," the complaint said.

Notre Dame's lawsuit is one of several across the country filed against U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and other government entities.

On Monday, both parties filed a joint motion for an extension for the government to respond to the complaint. According to the filing, the government intends to file a motion to dismiss the complaint, which Notre Dame will oppose.

The filing cited 11 similar cases across the country, stating "similar extensions are being requested in these other cases, thereby allowing the parties sufficient time to consult with their clients and coordinate the filing of all briefs."

Senior Judge James Moody will preside over the case.

Mark Kairis, an attorney for Notre Dame, and Charles Miller, a public affairs specialist for the U.S. Department of Justice, each declined to comment Monday.

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