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May 21, 2012

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Kathie Sass: (217) 698-8500


SPRINGFIELD − The Catholic Diocese of Springfield in Illinois and Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois today filed suit in the Northern District of Illinois asking the court to rule that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's mandate requiring employers to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and contraceptives violates the constitutionally protected free exercise of religion.

The suit is one of 12 lawsuits, encompassing 43 separate plaintiffs filed simultaneously in 11 state jurisdictions and the District of Columbia. Plaintiffs include Catholic dioceses, Catholic schools and universities, Catholic health systems and Catholic charitable organizations.

In the Illinois suit, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki of Springfield along with Bishop R. Daniel Conlon of Joliet, are listed as plaintiffs as bishops of their respective dioceses. The Catholic Charities agencies of both dioceses also are included as plaintiffs.

"This lawsuit is about an unprecedented attack by the federal government on one of America's most cherished freedoms: the freedom to practice one's religion without government interference," said Bishop Paprocki. "It is not about whether people have access to certain services; it is about whether the government may force religious institutions and individuals to facilitate and fund services which violate their religious beliefs."

Bishop Paprocki is both a canon and civil lawyer. He is a member and past chairman of the Committee for Canonical Affairs and Church Governance for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). He also has been appointed to a new Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty for the USCCB.

The HHS mandate was made final on Feb. 15, 2012. Although the government included an exemption for churches, the definition of "religious employer" was so narrow that it excludes Catholic hospitals, schools, universities and social service providers. To qualify for the exemption as it now stands, Catholic institutions would have stop serving non-Catholics in need and stop employing non-Catholic employees. This is in direct opposition of the church's commitment to serve others, not because of their religious beliefs, but because of their inherent human dignity.

By extending religious freedom protection only to houses of worship, HHS's exemption reduces religious freedom to the freedom of worship, the suit says.

The suits filed this morning ask that the courts find the HHS mandate in violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution as well as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Administrative Procedure Act, which governs how government agencies propose and establish regulations.

For more information visit the diocesan website at www.dio.org. Further information is available at the USCCB website usccb.org.

The Catholic Diocese of Springfield is 130 parishes in 28 counties in Central Illinois.

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