The following is a July 15 press release from the Thomas More Society, a national not-for-profit law firm dedicated to restoring respect in law for life, family, and religious liberty:
Thomas More Society has filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, urging the Court to reverse a lower court ruling against Dignity Health, a nonprofit hospital system founded by the Sisters of Mercy, that decided Catholic and other religious hospitals’ longstanding exemption from federal pension law requirements, mandated by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended, was invalid and void, because those hospitals were not operated by the Church itself but rather by church-associated religious groups.
Dignity Health, whose founding nuns were “committed to furthering the healing ministry of Jesus,” now operates some two dozen hospitals throughout the western United States. In January, 1989, after providing pension benefits through seven different retirement plans, all those plans were merged into a new and generous defined benefit pension plan to cover hospitals and their employees as well as women religious working in the hospitals as part of their vocation. Both the IRS and the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation confirmed repeatedly that the new Dignity plan was deemed a “church plan” exempt from the federal pension law, because of its “association” with a church – an explicit exemption set forth in the text of the law itself.
But over twenty years later in 2013, lawyers brought a class action lawsuit against Dignity Health, claiming those hospitals’ pension plans were not entitled to exemption under Employee Retirement Income Security Act, and that in any event such an exemption would violate the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, as it would constitute an establishment of religion in violation of the separation of church and state. Worse, the lawyers argued that Dignity (and other hospitals) should be liable for statutory penalties of up to $110 per class member, per day of non-compliance with Employee Retirement Income Security Act requirements, retroactive to the new pension plan’s inception, plus injunctive relief and attorneys’ fees. The federal trial court upheld these claims, holding that “only a church or a convention of association of churches may establish a[n] [exempt] church plan.” The lower court also held there was no statute of limitations, so that ruinous, bankruptcy-inducing penalties might be payable for many years’ alleged non-compliance, if the class action lawyers’ claims were upheld on appeal.
Thomas More Society’s amicus brief argues the Dignity Health’s pension plan is indeed a “church plan” because a church-associated organization maintains the plan. Moreover, a broad reading of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act statutory exemption is supported by the free exercise clause of the First Amendment, assuring that Catholic and other religious hospitals are free to make decisions according to their religious principles, protected from excessive government entanglement. Thus the “avoidance canon” counsels against an unduly expansive federal control over the operations of religious institutions – including hospitals.
Tom Brejcha, president & chief counsel of Thomas More Society, commented: “This and other attacks on the principled independence and fiscal viability of Catholic hospitals represents yet another assault on the citadel of religious liberty in our country. We owe it to our predecessors and our posterity alike to repulse these attacks. What once we took for granted – that “free exercise of faith” includes not only preaching the faith but also the right to practice it outside the four walls of churches – must now be defended with vigor and resolve, even at great cost.”
Brejcha added, “If this appeal should fail, given multiple lawsuits on this issue, there is a likelihood that it too will soon come before the U.S. Supreme Court in another major test for religious liberty.”
View Thomas More Society’s amicus brief here.
In this nation, it is not a matter of religious freedom. In Detroit, satanists are allowed to displayed a statue of the devil with no impediments. The reality is, there is little freedom for the Catholic Church. And everyday there are more and more attacks against her. Look at what is happening with the Little Sisters of the Poor. May God bless His Holy Church. May the Virgin Mary pray for us. May St. Michael and his angels defend us from the relentless assault of satan. +JMJ+
“little freedom for the Catholic Church”. What hogwash.
THe Little Sisters objected to signing a paper saying they would not provide contraceptive coverage. All they were asked to do was to sign a paper saying their morality does not allow them to fund contraception. They refused to sign that paper!! That is what this case was about: Their refusal to sign a paper saying they would not provide contraceptive coverage. Give me a break!!
YFC– Don’t you support the nursing work of good religious orders, like the Little Sisters of the Poor? What if you were one of their patients? What would you do, if their healthcare collapsed, that you were receiving? It is a Mortal Sin against God, to sign papers in agreement to provide contraceptives (many of which also are abortifacients!)– and to provide ABORTIONS, is a deadly Mortal Sin, too! There is an excellent nursing home for sick and dying priests, near where I live, run by the Little Sisters of the Poor. Makes me CRY for them! They are truly doing God’s work!
YFC, you are wrong in the details. Read the actual Court documents.
No SAM I am absolutely right on the details. Have YOU read the court papers?
What you’re wrong on is the nature of freedom of religion. Even granting your mischaracterization that the nuns’ only objection was to signing a piece of paper, the courts have no wherewithal, legally or logically, to test conscience assertions within the context of religion. This is precisely because they do not know the faith and are incapable of knowing it, as they do not share the faith, in fact they reject it. The depths of Catholic faith can only be known by those who accept it ab initio, not by persons who condition their acceptance on their personal agreement.
Catholic Nuns ‘health’ plans MUST Fund Killing – but but the ‘twysted systerz of indulgence’ (who act out a grotesque hateful mockery of Nuns, kind of like crossing ‘stepping fetch-it’ with tim crury) – can proudly get their genitals mutilated at full taxpayer expense – and then proudly share the tv stage with Bruce (but not for long, we know who the real star of the show is, once again) saluting self mutilation.
Such is the Orwellian Insanity of this age of Abominaton.
Court rules nuns must fund abortifacients/contraception under HHS mandate
LOVE the 1947 photo! It looks like our TRUE Church, with REAL nuns!! Catholic hospitals of today– such as so-called “Dignity” hospitals– do not resemble REAL Catholic hospitals, at all! So very sad! Then, to make things worse– the EVIL Obamacare!! I miss the REAL nuns, and the REAL Church, giving Christ’s Gospel everywhere to the world, simply by being CATHOLIC, in every way! And I miss a REAL bishop, too, and a REAL Pope, in Rome! Giving Christ’s teaching, with conviction, confidence, and Christ-like authority!! All the world would have RESPECT!! And there would be no such thing, as the Devil’s “Obamacare!” It would not exist!!
Who are the persons joining the so-called class action lawsuit? Who is paying for their legal expenses? It costs a minimum of $40,000.00 to file in Federal Court. Who is paying that? Is it a union? Perhaps a counter lawsuit might be filed against them for filing a frivolous lawsuit.
I work for the Thomas More Society, which is a not-for-profit, national public interest law firm dedicated to restoring respect in law for life, family, and religious liberty. Based in Chicago, the Thomas More Society defends and fosters support for these causes by providing high quality pro bono legal services from local trial courts all the way to the United States Supreme Court.
So from their end, there is no cost for Catholic organizations that need legal help.
For many years, the Adrian Dominican teaching nuns ran our parish grade school. In the late 1960’s, sadly– the ravages of Vatican II hit the good sisters! They took back their secular, baptismal names— it was now “Sister Susie,” or “Sister Kathy,” (etc.) instead of a special religious name. And they modified their religious habits– no veils, short and simplified habits, with a knee-length white skirt. Then, they began beauty shop visits, for their unveiled hair to look nice. By the 1970’s– they were gone, the parish school was closed, and our once-thriving, beautiful old church, had few worshippers left. (And a priest shortage!) Nothing left, but lovely photographs, and memories!
You cannot “re-invent the wheel,” replacing it with something terrible and inferior, as most unstable, immoral hippies and liberals in the Church, in academia, and in society, would love to do! Why destroy good things, even precious things given to us by God — and say they are worthless? You cannot replace, or re-invent, many precious things, of truth and of excellence! The Traditional Marriage (one man, one woman), and Family– as the very heart and soul of all civilization, and of the Church– and a true, Judeo-Christian bedrock, for our society! With solid Christian morality, and RESPECT and SUPPORT everywhere and always, for the good works, of America’s great religions!
I will continue, with my above post. The loss to our country is incalculable– if our country continues to turn on her religious groups, and savagely bullies them all, seeking to destroy them, and their good works! Our Nation cannot survive this! Our Nation was built and preserved, by love, prayer, sacrifice, hard work, and also– death, in wartime! Very costly! America was not meant to be an atheist Nation, devoid of Judeo-Christian belief, savagely destroying God, religion, and morality! This is a suicide, a genocide!! Where is the Christ-like authority, of strong religious leaders– to REBUKE such EVILS, and DEMAND that they be ended??
Our beloved Abp. Fulton J. Sheen, whom I just adored– wrote and spoke fondly, of his first grade teacher, Sister Alexis, at St. Mary’s Cathedral parish school, in Peoria, Illinois. He probably was in the first grade, about the year 1901, as he was born in 1895. Anyway, Sheen kept in contact with this beloved nun, lifelong, and visited her, in her elderly years. Of course– in both Catholic and secular schools, there have always ben both outstanding teachers, and bad ones, too! But the right thing to do, if you have problems– is to fix the problems– not destroy the entire institution!!