Franciscan reacts to Hobby Lobby ruling

STEUBENVILLE – Franciscan University of Steubenville lauded today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. as progress in the ongoing fight for religious liberty in America.

Father Sean O. Sheridan, TOR, president of Franciscan University, said, “We still need to evaluate the decision, but our initial reaction is positive. The U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed today the fundamental right to free exercise of religion guaranteed by the Constitution. Much work remains to be done to protect the religious freedom of all citizens from the ill-conceived HHS mandate, but this decision in favor of the owners of Hobby Lobby is certainly progress.”

In 2012, Franciscan University filed a federal lawsuit against Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and the Obama administration seeking to have the HHS contraception mandate declared unconstitutional and to enjoin the government from enforcing the requirement that employers provide insurance coverage that includes abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilization procedures.

While the case was dismissed in 2013 on the grounds that the University had yet to be injured by the HHS mandate, Franciscan University continues to fight for the freedom to practice religion and exercise the rights of conscience without government interference.

Father Sheridan said that failure to comply with the HHS contraception mandate for the University’s 450 employees would cost Franciscan University more than $16 million in yearly penalty taxes. Failure to provide health insurance at all would cost the University $900,000 annually. Currently, a grandfather clause allows the University to maintain its current health insurance plan.

“Franciscan University will always follow the Catholic faith and will never facilitate actions contrary to the faith through our health plans,” Father Sheridan said. “We remain ready to re-file our lawsuit at an opportune time and will do everything in our power to promote and protect our constitutional right to religious freedom.”