Catholic university sues to block Obama's contraception mandate

A small Catholic university sued the Obama administration Tuesday over the controversial order requiring that insurance companies cover birth control.

The suit was filed on behalf of Ave Maria University in a federal court in Florida. University President Jim Towey, who led the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives during the George W. Bush administration, said the pushback against the White House’s policy will keep growing.

“I just think its getting started now,” Towey told reporters.

He said Catholic institutions held their fire while they waited to see the details of the revised contraception mandate. Now that they’ve had time to digest the policy, more employers will use political pressure as well as the courts to challenge it, he predicted.

He said the federal government has “bullied” religious institutions into a choice between breaking the law or violating their core beliefs. 

President Obama recently announced changes under which employers like Ave Maria won’t have to include contraception benefits in their healthcare plans or directly pay for those benefits. Employees will get birth control from the insurance company without being charged a co-pay.

“It was little more than a shell game,” Towey said. “They can say it’s free all they want, but if these drugs cost money today, they’ll cost money tomorrow.”

Towey said he would quit offering healthcare benefits to university employees rather than “comply with an unjust, immoral mandate.” Ave Maria provides healthcare coverage to 129 employees at an annual cost of about $1.7 million, he said.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Ave Maria by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which has already filed three other challenges to the contraception mandate.