D.C.

Archdiocese of Washington takes legal action against birth control mandate

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The Archdiocese of Washington on Monday is taking legal action to challenge the administration’s mandate that requires religious organizations to provide coverage for birth control.

In a statement released by the Archdiocese of Washington, they said they join 43 Catholic institutions across the country that is working to “preserve religious freedom.”

“The archdiocese's complaint maintains that the HHS [The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services] mandate violates the First Amendment and federal law by forcing the plaintiffs, all Catholic organizations, to sacrifice their beliefs in order to be able to continue their mission of serving all people in need,” the Archdiocese said.

The legal action filed Monday was one of 12 similar actions filed nationwide.

Some 2100 people work for the diocese in the Washington area. Many of them admittedly take contraception. This law, and the church's defiance of it, pits those employees straight in the middle of the controversy.

"For the first time in this country's history, the government's new definition of religious institutions suggests that some of the very institutions that put our faith into practice-schools, hospitals, and social service organizations-are not 'religious enough,'" said Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington.

Wuerl said Catholic schools and social service ministries do not qualify as religious under the rules, and the mandate forces them to provide coverage for drugs and procedures "that we believe are morally wrong."

The archdiocese said the plaintiffs are seeking a solution that allows all religious organizations, not just houses of worship, to follow their religious convictions and continue to serve all who are in need.

The archdiocese recently criticized the selection of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius as a graduation speaker at Georgetown University because she helped shape the new federal health care law, which mandates that employers provide health insurance that covers birth control for workers.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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