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December 4, 2013

Notre Dame sues over birth control mandate

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — The University of Notre Dame on Tuesday filed another lawsuit against the U.S. government, saying forcing it to provide health insurance for students and employees that covers birth control contravenes the teachings of the Roman Catholic institution.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in South Bend claims the Affordable Health Care Act violates Notre Dame's freedom to practice religion without government interference. Under the law, employers must provide insurance that covers a range of preventive care, free of charge, including contraception. The teachings of the Catholic church prohibit the use of contraceptives.

"The government's accommodations would require us to forfeit our rights, to facilitate and become entangled in a program inconsistent with Catholic teaching and to create the impression that the university cooperates with and condones activities incompatible with its mission," the Rev. John I. Jenkins, the university's president, said in a statement. "In these ways, we contend, the regulations compel us to violate our religious beliefs."

Notre Dame says in the lawsuit its employee health plans are self-insured, covering about 4,600 employees and a total of about 11,000 people. Its student health plans cover about 2,600 students. The lawsuit says Notre Dame's health plans do not cover abortion-inducing products, contraceptives or sterilization.

"The U.S. government mandate, therefore, requires Notre Dame to do precisely what its sincerely held religious beliefs prohibit — pay for, facilitate access to, and/or become entangled in the provision of objectionable products and services or else incur crippling sanctions," the lawsuit says.

Notre Dame argues in the lawsuit the fines of $2,000 per employee if it eliminates its employee health plan, or $100 a day for each affected beneficiary if it refuses to provide or facilitate the coverage, would coerce it into violating its religious beliefs.

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