Today in New York, a judge dismissed the Obama Justice Department’s claims that the Archdiocese of New York’s lawsuit in response to the coercive mandate is unnecessary. Judge Brian Cogan of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York wrote:
Fundamentally . . . this Court cannot accept that the present costs incurred by plaintiffs are simply the result of their “desire to prepare for contingencies.” Quite frankly, ignoring the speeding train that is coming towards plaintiffs in the hope that it will stop might well be inconsistent with the fiduciary duties that plaintiffs’ directors or officers owe to their members. As explained above, the practical realities of administering health care coverage for large numbers of employees — which defendants’ recognize — require plaintiffs to incur these costs in advance of the impending effectiveness of the Coverage Mandate. That is a business reality that any responsible board of directors would have to appreciate.
Moreover, the First Amendment does not require citizens to accept assurances from the government that, if the government later determines it has made a misstep, it will take ameliorative action. There is no, “Trust us, changes are coming” clause in the Constitution. To the contrary, the Bill of Rights itself, and the First Amendment in particular, reflect a degree of skepticism towards governmental self-restraint and self-correction. . . . Considering the extraordinary political passion surrounding the Coverage Mandate from all sides, there is simply no way to predict what, if any, changes to the Coverage Mandate will be made, even if some policymakers favor certain changes.
I’m no legal expert, but this is a good sign, especially given how the judge — on page 29 of the decision — demolished the government’s argument that no punishment would come to the diocese. The judge also pointed out that the government has had a year to change the policy, since the first lawsuits were filed, but it has not.
The HHS Mandate is one of the more egregious assaults on religious freedom the country has seen in a while. This is one more good sign it could be eliminated.