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Federal judge grants Catholic hospitals injunction against Affordable Care Act penalties

Updated: February 3, 2014 3:42PM



A federal judge granted a group of local Catholic hospitals an emergency injunction against penalties from the federal government if the hospital group does not provide its employees with coverage for birth control by Wednesday, which will affect 6,000 employees in Lake County.

U.S. District Judge Jon DeGuilio in South Bend granted a request by Franciscan Alliance and other Catholic groups in northern Indiana for a preliminary injunction against the federal government. Part of the Affordable Care Act declared that the hospital group and other employers must provide the coverage to its employees by the beginning of 2014, but Franciscan has argued it should be exempted for religious reasons.

“We simply asked that the government not impose its values and policies on plaintiffs, in direct violation of our religious beliefs,” Kevin Leahy, Franciscan president and CEO, said in a release.

Franciscan Alliance includes St. Anthony Health in Crown Point, St. Margaret Health in Hammond, St. Margaret Health in Dyer and Franciscan Healthcare in Munster. A representative with the group said that those locations employ 6,000, or a little less than half of the 13,000 employees who work for all 13 locations.

The injunction is not a final ruling by DeGuilio but instead says that the group is more likely than not to win their case and would suffer irreparable harm in the meantime.

The ruling is the opposite of another one handed down recently by DeGuilio’s peer, U.S. District Judge Philip Simon in Hammond, in a similar lawsuit filed by the University of Notre Dame.

The university also requested a preliminary injunction from the birth control mandate, but Simon denied it on Dec. 20. The university filed an emergency appeal three days later with the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, but that court denied on Monday a request for an emergency injunction.

However, the court did grant Notre Dame an expedited hearing and has ordered all arguments to be filed by Feb. 3, with arguments to follow later that month.



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