Archbishop Coakley on progress of litigation against HHS mandate: “We are encouraged by this recognition of religious liberty”

OKLAHOMA CITY (June 5, 2014) – A U.S. district court judge in Oklahoma yesterday delivered a ruling that protects the employer members of the Oklahoma-based Catholic Benefits Association from the conscience-violating requirements of a burdensome federal regulation.

In a class-action lawsuit filed by the CBA, the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and others, Judge David Russell of the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma ruled that those Catholic employers who are currently members of the CBA should be exempt from an Obama administration mandate that requires employers to provide employees with health insurance that covers contraception, abortifacients, sterilization and related counseling – drugs and procedures to which CBA members have religious objections.

In his decision, Judge Russell clarified that “the Court’s inquiry is focused upon how the plaintiffs themselves measure their degree of complicity in an immoral act.” He found the employer members of the CBA to be sincere in their belief that complying with the mandate renders them complicit in the provision of contraceptive services to their employees, which they find “morally repugnant.”


“This is where the Court’s inquiry ends, as it is not the Court’s role to say Plaintiffs’ religious beliefs are mistaken,” Judge Russell wrote.

Prior to the lawsuit, the Obama administration granted an exemption from the mandate to Catholic employers who directly operate Catholic dioceses and houses of worship, but refused to extend the exemption to those who own and operate separately incorporated charitable organizations and for-profit corporations. The Catholic Benefits Association includes employer members in all three groups – houses of worship, separately incorporated charitable organizations and for-profit corporations.

The Most Reverend Paul S. Coakley, Archbishop of Oklahoma City and vice president of the Catholic Benefits Association, said Judge Russell’s decision is a source of hope and encouragement.

“I’m heartened by today’s ruling,” Archbishop Coakley said. “Judge Russell was right to recognize that the Catholic employers of the Catholic Benefits Association have a right to allow their faith to inform not just their private beliefs, but also their public actions.

“The administration has been discriminatory to grant relief to some Catholic employers and not others based on whether they operate within the diocesan structure or at separately incorporated charitable organizations and for-profit businesses,” he explained. “Whether bishops or businessmen, Catholics cannot in good conscience provide employees with insurance that covers drugs and procedures that undermine the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of human life.”

“Today is a very good day for proponents of religious liberty in general and for the Catholic Benefits Association in particular,” he added.

The Catholic Benefits Association is an association of Catholic employers united and committed in their defense of their First Amendment right to give witness to their Catholic faith, through their ministries and businesses, by providing their employees with life-affirming health care coverage that is consistent with Catholic teaching.  There are nearly 450 Catholic employers in the association, whose insurance plans cover more than 40,000 employees.  They include Catholic dioceses and archdioceses, religious orders, local Catholic Charities, colleges, nursing homes, cemeteries, retreat centers and medical facilities.  The Catholic Benefits Association serves both non-profit ministries and for-profit businesses.   

The CBA also makes it possible for Catholic employers — both nonprofit and for-profit — to exercise their religious values through the health coverage they provide to their employees.  To accomplish this, the CBA has formed a wholly-owned subsidiary, The Catholic Insurance Company (CIC) and arranged for health provider networks to assist Catholic employers in providing comprehensive, quality health care that honors the dignity of the human person. The CBA also provides vigorous defense of its members’ First Amendment religious liberty regarding such coverage.  More information about the Catholic Benefits Association is available at


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