Diocese, entities withdraw appeal of lawsuit ruling

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CNS) — The Diocese of Nashville and seven other Catholic entities operating in the diocese have withdrawn their appeal of a judge’s dismissal of their lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the federal government’s mandate to provide health insurance coverage for artificial contraception and other services the church teaches are immoral.

The appeal to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was withdrawn because the federal government Feb. 1 released proposed new rules for the mandate that would widen its exemption for religious organizations, which was one of the goals of the original lawsuit.

The Department of Health and Human Services is accepting public comment on the proposed changes until April 1.

“We will assess the new rules when they are finalized and determine our next course of action,” said Rick Musacchio, spokesman for the diocese. “The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has indicated that in their current form, the newly proposed rules may not resolve all of the objections to the mandates. A new lawsuit remains a possibility.”

The HHS first issued the mandate in August 2011 as part of the health care reform law. It requires employer health plans to provide coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, sterilization and related education and counseling.

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