Fr. Frank Pavone
National Director, Priests for Life
Senator Roy Blunt, who sponsored the amendment in the Senate that, had it received a few more votes, would have protected conscience rights of employers, said, “This is a debate that might be settled at that building across the street,” referring to the Supreme Court.
Indeed, as of this writing, eight different lawsuits have been launched against the Obama administration to block the unjust HHS mandate. I am proud to have authorized the fourth of these eight, Priests for Life vs. Sebelius, filed in US District Court, Eastern District of New York on February 15, 2012. Ours was the first lawsuit filed subsequent to the so-called “accommodation” announced by the President on February 10, hence signaling the administration in no uncertain terms that we did not consider his “accommodation” helpful at all.
The eight lawsuits so far, arranged by the date they were filed, are as follows:
November 10, 2011 Belmont Abbey College v. Sebelius
December 21, 2011 Colorado Christian University v. Sebelius
February 9, 2012 Eternal Word Television Network v. Sebelius
February 15, 2012 Priests for Life v. Sebelius
February 20, 2012 Louisiana College v. Sebelius
February 21, 2012 Ave Maria University v. Sebelius
February 21, 2012 Geneva College v. Sebelius
February 23, 2012 Bruning v. Sebelius (This is the one whose plaintiffs include the states of Nebraska, Texas, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, and South Carolina.)
(You may want to share this list with your local media, since some outlets continue to get the count wrong.)
Though freedom of religion has been the theme most central to this debate, a common theme in these lawsuits is likewise freedom of speech. To quote from the Complaint we filed (which you can find at www.PriestsForLife.org), “The…mandate compels Priests for Life to provide education and counseling regarding contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and abortifacients…[and hence]…to engage in speech that violates its sincerely-held religious beliefs.”
Freedom of speech, in other words, by giving you the right to say what you want to say, necessarily also contains the right to not say what you don’t want to say. And it doesn’t matter if you are forced to say it yourself or to pay someone else to say it.
The Complaint also states that we have filed this suit “to protect the rights of all Americans.” Freedom of speech and freedom of religion do not belong only to religious groups, but to everyone. The other side wants to frame this battle as just a sectarian issue — most particularly a Catholic issue.
During the 2000 elections, a reporter said at a Priests for Life press conference at the National Press Club, “Fr. Frank is calling for a Vatican takeover of America.”
As I said then, I am not calling for any Vatican takeover of America; I’m calling for an American takeover of America! It’s fine to say we stand with our religious leaders, but let’s make it clear that they and we are standing with our Constitution and our great nation, rooted in God’s gift of freedom.