Says judge’s order affects religious liberty of all Missourians

ST. LOUIS (CNS) — A federal judge’s decision to strike down portions of a Missouri law protecting conscience rights of those who object to coverage of contraceptives and abortifacients in their health plans attacks the conscience rights and religious liberty of all Missouri citizens, said the state’s Catholic conference.

Judge Audrey Fleissig of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri in St. Louis issued her order March 14.

The Missouri Catholic Conference, public policy arm of the state’s bishops, expressed dismay over her decision. Tyler McClay, the conference’s general counsel, said no one should be forced to pay for contraceptives, abortion drugs or sterilization procedures in their health plans.

Elsewhere in the country, a federal judge in Michigan granted a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the federal contraceptive mandate in a suit brought against the Department of Health and Human Services by Tom Monaghan, founder and former owner of Domino’s Pizza, and his property management company.

In Minnesota, the state Catholic conference filed a friend-of-court brief with the appeals court in support of Catholic employers who are challenging the HHS mandate and “to stand in solidarity with (the) appellants, who are bravely contesting the legality of an unwise and unjust policy.”

In Missouri Fleissig’s order effectively amended a state law, McClay said, “thereby requiring churches and houses of worship to provide the offending coverage to their employees under Missouri law. She did this despite the fact that the Obama administration recently amended the rules to clearly allow churches and their affiliates to be exempt from the mandate.”

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