WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA) ---The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington has joined other Catholic organizations that on Monday sued the Obama Administration over provisions of the new health care law that would require employers to offer contraception services in their health care plans, arguing the proposal violates First Amendment protection for religious freedom.
Proposed regulations offer exemptions for religious institutions, but Catholic plaintiffs argue the definition of religious organization in the new regulations is too narrow.
"We need to protect our constitutional right to freedom of religion. In this new mandate, this HHS ( Health and Human Services) mandate is a brand new definition of who we are. It's an extreme definition. It's a
radical definition. It's never been applied in federal legislation across the country before.
"And what it does is it simply marginalizes all of us, our schools our Catholic charities, our health care institutions, all of our social service ministry. It simply says none of that is religious.
"For us, here in the District of Columbia, what would that mean? We operate schools. We've been operating schools decades and decades, caring for some of the neediest children in this community, and we've been very successful in educating them. The vast majority of these kids in our center city schools are not Catholic.
"To be told we don't count, they don't count as religious, we don't accept that. That's why we're going into court. Rather than have some sort of confusion as we move into the future, why don't we get this settled in a very objective, dispassionate, nonpolitical forum? The courts exist for that and that's why Americans turn to the courts. We have always turned to our courts as citizens of this great country when there has been some confusion, some challenge, some attack on our constitutional rights, so that's why we have joined institutions all across America in saying this is un-American and we need to get it cleaned up," said Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the Archbishop of Washington.
"First of all, it's not about contraception. The Archdiocese and the lawsuits across the country are not contesting a woman's access to contraception.
"What this lawsuit is about is religious liberty and the narrow redefinition that happened in this lawsuit saying that religious activity is only that that takes place within the four walls of a church, that all the ministries that flow from our worship, service of the poor, service of educating those that need to learn, that these are not considered religious activity, that only when we deal and hire only Catholics would be considered religious activity, so what this redefinition does is it says that Catholic Charities is not religious work, that our education is not religious work, that Catholic University of America would not be considered a religious institution, and we are saying that this is a great infringement on our religious liberty," said Father William Byrne, who presides over a parish on Capitol HIll.