Federal judge hints that he will grant injunction in Greensburg diocese lawsuit

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A federal judge plans to issue a preliminary injunction within weeks in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Greensburg's lawsuit seeking to avoid the Affordable Care Act's mandate requiring insurance coverage for contraception, sterilization and abortion drugs.

U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab said today that he expects to make a decision by June 20, giving the diocese about 10 days before the July 1 renewal date for its contract with its claims administrator.

"We think that the judge's timetable is very generous and acceptable to us," said attorney John D. Goetz, of Jones Day, which is representing the Greensburg diocese and several other dioceses in lawsuits against the federal officials charged with administering the act.

In December, Judge 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 Greensburg case "screams out for some consistency with the prior two cases," the judge said today.

He said he will hold a July 16 hearing on the diocese's request for a permanent injunction.

The diocese, Bishop Lawrence E. Brandt, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Greensburg and the St. John the Evangelist Regional Catholic School last week sued 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.

The mandate doesn't apply to churches, but requires that the insurance administrators for church-related charities and schools provide the reproductive services coverage free of charge.

Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1542. Twitter: @richelord.

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