Monday, February 20, 2012

Opponents to Obama's Medical Mandate Already Lining up in Court

As President Obama's new medical mandate regarding contraception is becoming more and more of a eventual reality, the Justice department is "urging judges to stay out of the controversy until a compromise can be worked out." According to the article, the Justice Department has made it clear that the requirements for the mandate do not become effective until next January, giving the Obama administration ample time to try to satiate the opponents of the mandate. These remarks by the Justice Department come on the heels of the news that Belmont Abbey College, a "Catholic-affiliated liberal arts institution," has already sued on the grounds that "it should not be obligated to provide such services in violation of its religious beliefs. 

There are two very important points regarding the "contraception controversy" in this article. First, the Obama administration has conceded that Belmont Abbey and other institutions may be exempt under a "grandfather" clause, similar to protections granted from an ex-post facto law. This would allow any established Catholic institution to bypass the mandate, but any new or start-up institutions would have to comply, regardless of religious affiliation. Secondly, the Justice Department has stated that institutions such as Belmont Abbey do not have standing to sue, because the mandate has not been in put into effect yet. This is consistent with previous legal precedents that require that the plaintiff to have been actually harmed by a law before they can sue to have it declared unconstitutional. However, the issue of standing is a complex one, and in the U.S. standing can be granted to a plaintiff that can demonstrate that they have been or will imminently be harmed by a law. The question this raises is the legal relevance of the word "imminently" in relation to Belmont Abbey's case. If the regents of Belmont Abbey believe that the contraception mandate will harm their institution, is next January not "imminent" enough that they should be granted standing? This may be a defense that Belmont Abbey can raise if they want to challenge the mandate sooner rather than later. Either way, the role of the courts in this controversy is far from over. 

These two points give the Obama administration valuable ammunition in the negotiations that will inevitably happen between now and and January 1st of next year. However, despite the fact that the Justice department has asked federal judges not to get involved, I think they would be in dereliction of their duty if they did not take Belmont Abbeys case if the college is found to have legitimate legal standing. Even if the Obama administration believes that Belmont Abbey does not have standing to pursue a case it is of little importance, as it is for the courts and judges to decide if they have standing. No judge has ruled yet that Belmont Abbey has standing, but it could happen in the near future. What do you think? Should Belmont Abbey be granted standing? Should they be allowed to be "grandfathered" in when the mandate takes effect? Please share some of your thoughts.


jacobr said...

I enjoyed reading this blog posting. On the issue of contraception and the rights of religious institutions not to provide such services on a moral basis, I am in agreement with the religious community.
President Obama administration is over reaching their authority by infringing upon the rights of religious institutions. It is not the role of government to neither set nor enforce issues of moral substance. On the issue of a preemptive lawsuit against the Obama administration aimed at preventing the implementation of this federal medical mandate, I do believe Belmont Abbey is well within their rights.

crunchycheetos said...

I think "grandfather"ing them in is religious bias. If the Abbey is upset due to their religious practices, that is their matter. They should be held to the same standards and expectations of other institutions. They should not be exempt from providing a service some of their employees may desire to obtain. I'm so sick of morality being a legal exemption or valid excuse.

Preston L.