Court Rules Against Bishops In One Birth Control Fight


The Catholic Bishops‘ battle against reproductive healthcare was dealt a significant blow on Friday when a federal judge ruled against the bishops in a battle over whether the group could impose its views on contraception and abortion through its control of taxpayer dollars.

Over the last six months the bishops have argued the administration is anti-Catholic because it refused to renew a contract with the group to provide services to victims of human trafficking. The bishops had been administering almost all of the federal money allocated for such services which amounted to about $3 million a year. They would spread that money out to subcontractors who serviced victims all over the country.

But like all grants from the bishops, these dollars came with strings. The bishops prohibited the contractors from using the federal funds to pay for staff time to counsel victims on contraception or abortion, or to refer them for such services.

The ACLU sued HHS over the grants arguing the rules violated constitutional prohibitions on church and state. And while that case was working its way through the court system the Obama administration decided not to renew the bishops’ contract, mostly because they refused to provide these critical reproductive health services that trafficking victims need.

On Friday a federal judge validated that position, siding with the ACLU on the contract.

The bishops can’t be happy about this decision. Even though they no longer had the contract since the Obama administration cancelled it, they had joined with the ACLU in asking the court to resolve the constitutional issue. Which it did, just not in the bishops’ favor.

The significance of the ruling can’t be understated. It calls into question the entire basis of the federal faith-based contracting initiative, created under George W. Bush that gives religious institutions almost carte blanche to administer federal taxpayer dollars in the name of social service administration.

The decision will likely be appealed but it shows, once again, that the right’s insistence that its religious rights are under attack is nothing more than their misunderstanding of the scope of what those rights are.


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Photo from mrbill via flickr.


ERIKA SOMLAI1 years ago


LMj Sunshine
James merritt jr6 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

BMutiny TCorporationsAreE

The Catholic Bishops have COMPLETELY LOST any "Moral Authority" they may once have thought they had -- for a whole pileup of reasons. They are getting more and more rigid and dogmatic, as they are getting more and more DESPERATE.
The Catholic Church, in the U.S. and in Europe, is BLEEDING members -- people leaving in DROVES. Many to form their OWN Congregations for worship, calling themselves still "Catholic", but not wanting to have anything at all to do with the corrupt and misogynistic and hate-filled Vatican Hierarchy.
There are only 258 Catholic Bishops in the U.S. -- they would have NO political power without the aid of co-operating Tea-party legislators!
So much damage to Women's Rights -- that only 258 men, hypocritically PRETENDING to be "Celibate" {and not Gay!}, have done and are intending to do.....

Sandra L.
Sandra L7 years ago

Hopefully this is just the beginning of the end for Bushs Faith Based and Community Initiatives.

Debbie L.
Debbie Lim7 years ago

Nice, thanks.

Amanda M.
Amanda M7 years ago

Nice to see one battle being won! It's about time someone told these CELIBATE men that their "right" to follow their religion STOPS when it butts smack up against other people's rights to live their lives free FROM religious interference/imposition like this! The Vatican seems to be suffering from a terminal case of cranium rectumitis and needs to wake up and join the 21st century.

Mercedes Lackey
Mercedes Lackey7 years ago

So let's put this simply.

The Catholic Bishops had programs to help the victims of human trafficking. One would think that their CHRISTIAN PRINCIPLES would cause them to support these programs with CHURCH MONEY, Praise the Lord! Doing God's Work with Church Dollars! Halleluja AMEN! They only have these programs if they can vacuum up Federal money in the form of our TAX dollars. If they can't get Federal grants (and siphon off their "share" in "administration costs"?) why look, now they don't want to support these programs with Church Money? ORLY?

Gee it doesn't look like a charity anymore does it? It doesn't look like doing God's Work anymore does it?

What does it look like?

The same kind of grifting business we've seen elsewhere. Like the Komen Foundation.

lis Gunn
lis Gunn7 years ago

Why am I not surprised that the bishops are unhappy? I am not a Catholic but am very concerned by the Church's acceptance of tax payer funded assistance in implementing its charitable work. Whether it be in health, education, homelessness or other social activities, it is restricted by its beliefs and dogmas. The Catholic Church's stand on issues such as contraception,(including IVF, condom use, abortion,planned parenthood, STDs) homosexuality, female ordination - indeed the very place of women and gender equality and its lack of action on paediphilia by priests are quite frightening.

I was also appalled when George W made it conditional that any US aid to other nations was not to be used for Family Planning or women's reproductive health. The number of maternal deaths in developing countries (and indeed in developed countries) is appalling. Currently with the Pope's visit to Cuba which used to be known as the divorce and abortion capital of the US I am reminded of the pre Castro death rate of illegal abortions. Nowadays one of Cuba's biggest exports is doctors to developing nations.

If the Catholic Church wants taxpayer funds it should play by taxpayer rules.

John Kramer
John Kramer7 years ago

All the bishops should go to Boston and lobby to get prostitution legalized in Massachusetts.

Byron B.
Byron Borger7 years ago

The Faith Based Initiative that so many people are saying was started by Bush was, in fact, started by Clinton.

And it strictly prohibits any sectarian religious activities; they don't teach about their faith, they do social work with drug rehab, the homeless population, helping mom's in poverty understand WIC, housing counseling, all sorts of anti-poverty stuff. Some are Muslim, some Native American, some Jewish, some progressive Protestant, some radically progressive Catholics. All sorts of people are inspired by their faith to work in social work and the governemnt, in a bipartisan agreement, thought it would be cost effective and helpful to allow those who are doing the best work on the ground with the poor and disadvantaged, to be conduits of public funds earmarked for the common good. Do you really want all these groups to be hamstrung, eroding the good work they are doing in your local communities? I'm not Catholic, but the Catholics aren't the only ones involved in this, and most social service providers are decent folks doing good work. If the feds cut off these partnerships ---like a number of people above seem to want--the government will be hard pressed to find providers doing the work that needs done.

Anybody who does social work in their communities and knows anything about this program knows it has mostly been really effective, with faith-motivated, church-related nonprofits being a conduit for social services, and it has very little do to with any