Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Tuesday 28 September |
Saint of the Day: St. Wenceslaus
home iconNews
line break icon

HHS Department Refuses to Comply With Information Request, Diocese Contends in Lawsuit

CC David Galalis

Aleteia - published on 07/05/13 - updated on 06/07/17

Diocese of Pittsburg believes documents will show large influence of lobbyists on HHS decisions

The Diocese of Pittsburgh has filed a lawsuit charging that the federal government created illegal barriers to its request for information about lobbyist influence on the HHS contraception mandate.

“We think there has been a wide variety of groups trying to influence the administration to keep the sterilization, contraception and abortion pill parts of the mandate,” Mickey Pohl, a lawyer for the diocese, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

He added that the diocese is “trying to find out what the communication has been back and forth to HHS, and the reason HHS is fighting religious organizations so hard not to change the preventative care mandate.”

The diocese’s lawsuit, filed in federal court July 1, says that federal officials at the Health and Human Services department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wanted $1.8 million and up to five years to respond to the attorney’s Freedom of Information Act request for the relevant records.

The demand came months after the attorney’s September 2012 request for information.

Officials later changed their fee to $25,000 in processing charges, though Pohl said the offer of a three-year timeline was still unacceptable.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the diocese, as well as Catholic Charities of Pittsburgh and the diocese’s Catholic Cemeteries Association.

The Catholic institutions are challenging the mandate, which requires employers to cover or facilitate payment for employee sterilizations and contraception drugs, including some abortion-causing drugs.

The lawsuit said that the government has been “patently uncooperative” with the information request, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

Pohl said the federal officials’ demands for the payment and the lengthy waiting time violated legal requirements that they provide public information in a timely manner and at reasonable cost.

“Just because it’s a politically sensitive issue, the people at HHS shouldn’t decide they’re above the law and try to stonewall the provision of material requested under the Freedom of Information Act,” Pohl said.

“The law was written and it doesn’t favor either side – it’s just a good thing for citizens to get information that is not privileged.”

Over 200 plaintiffs have filed lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate on the grounds that it requires them to act in a way that violates their religious beliefs.

The Obama administration says that it has resolved concerns over religious freedom through its recent revisions to the mandate, although many religious groups argue that the updated requirements still force them to cooperate in something they believe to be immoral.

Abortion "rights" groups have largely supported the mandate, and some groups used it to rally support for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.

Some reports have questioned their influence on the mandate’s creation.

In November 2011, William J. Cox, president of the California-based Alliance of Catholic Health Care, told a Congressional subcommittee that the federal mandate’s original language was based on a California bill.

That bill’s religious exemption was “painstakingly crafted by the American Civil Liberties Union to specifically exclude religious institutional missions like health care providers, universities and social service agencies,” he said.

Cox said that during the debate on the California bill, the then-head of Planned Parenthood in California said the wording was designed to close the “Catholic gap” in contraceptive coverage.

Originally published by Catholic News Agency on July 4th, 2013.

Tags:
Religious Freedom
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
The Sinai Peninsula and the Dead Sea Rift
J-P Mauro
Experts now believe Sodom was destroyed by a meteor
2
VATICAN LEGOS
J-P Mauro
Chicago architect models Vatican City from 67,000 LEGO bricks
3
Fr. Michael Rennier
The purpose of life according to J.R.R. Tolkien
4
Giovanna Binci
He’s autistic, she has Down syndrome, and they’re wonderfully hap...
5
crisis man
Marzena Devoud
Advice from 3 monks for overcoming acedia
6
PADRE PIO
Bret Thoman, OFS
Exclusive photos: Meet Padre Pio and the place he lived
7
Christ and the woman taken in adultery
Daniel Esparza
What Jesus wrote
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.