Greensburg Catholic Diocese sues federal government over Affordable Care Act

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Following the lead of other area Roman Catholic groups, the Diocese of Greensburg and its affiliates Monday sued three federal departments, seeking to avoid the Affordable Care Act's mandate requiring insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, contraceptives and related counseling.

According to the lawsuit in U.S. District Court, the Greensburg diocese asked the government to extend an injunction already covering affiliates of the Pittsburgh and Erie dioceses, but was turned down. As a result, the Greensburg diocese wants the federal government to pay its legal bills for forcing it into "needless and repetitive litigation over civil rights issues already decided by this court," according to the complaint by attorneys at Downtown-based Jones Day.

A spokesman for the Department of Justice, which defends federal departments, declined comment.

The diocese, Bishop Lawrence E. Brandt, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Greensburg and the St. John the Evangelist Regional Catholic School, in Uniontown, are suing the federal departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Treasury. The Catholic groups claim that the mandate violates their rights under the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

In December, U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab granted a permanent injunction barring enforcement of the mandate in regards to the Pittsburgh and Erie dioceses and their affiliates. The Department of Justice has appealed that ruling. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals may wait to decide that appeal until the Supreme Court rules in an Eastern Pennsylvania case called Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation v. Sebelius.

The Greensburg case was also assigned to Judge Schwab.

The Greensburg Catholic organizations have to renew the contract with their claims administrator by July 1. They asked Monday for expedited handling of their case.

They want a judgment that the mandate violates their rights, an injunction prohibiting the mandate's enforcement and attorney fees.

Rich Lord:, 412-263-1542 or Twitter @richelord.

Rich Lord: or 412-263-1542. Twitter: @richelord. First Published May 27, 2014 12:24 PM

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