A federal judge has scheduled a Nov. 12 hearing on the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh's challenge to looming federal health care reforms requiring contraceptive and abortion coverage in employee health plans.
U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab on Thursday told attorneys for the diocese and the Justice Department that he wants to hear testimony about what happens if the church and its related entities, including Catholic Charities, don't abide by the mandates.
“Raising the question about whether the government’s mandate of what’s called preventive services and the way it’s being imposed on religious organizations is constitutional and consistent with the religious freedom restoration act,” Diocese of Pittsburgh attorney Mickey Pohl said.
The Justice Department contends the church, itself, is exempt and that its charitable affiliates can be accommodated so they don't have to pay for the coverage. But church attorneys argue it would violate their beliefs if the church or its affiliates play even an indirect role in providing such coverage for employees.
“It just so happens that Pittsburgh will be one of the first significant preliminary injunction hearings on that,” Pohl said. "There's a preliminary injunction set by judge Schwab to start on November 12. That'll give us a fair chance to lay the ground work for the injunction we're seeking."
Schwab plans to rule before the mandate takes effect Jan. 1.