Obama Seeks to Halt Church Subpoena in Birth-Control Case

The Obama administration urged a court to block a subpoena by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York seeking White House files for its lawsuit challenging the contraception coverage requirement of the federal health-care law.

The administration said that the archdiocese is seeking 13 “broad categories” of documents, requiring an “exceptionally burdensome search” of executive branch files, including those of the president and vice president, according to a motion filed April 4 in federal court in Washington. The motion was posted yesterday on the court’s electronic docket.

“Routine civil discovery seeking information from the offices of the President, the Vice President, and their staffs is generally not allowed,” the White House said, citing U.S. Supreme Court rulings. “Such discovery is particularly unwarranted here.”

Charles Michael Carberry, a lawyer for the archdiocese, didn’t immediately return a call yesterday after regular business hours seeking comment on the administration’s request.

In December, U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan in Brooklyn, New York, ruled that the archdiocese and two other Catholic entities can proceed with the contraceptive-coverage challenge. Cogan ruled that the archdiocese, which includes 370 parishes and insures 9,000 people, is facing impending injuries from the rule, even though it doesn’t take effect until January 2014.

Changes Coming

The government argued that the case should be dismissed because the coverage mandate isn’t causing imminent injury and there will be changes to the requirements to accommodate the interests of religious organizations.

In January, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington threw out a related challenge to the birth-control mandate filed by the Archdiocese of Washington and four other Catholic nonprofit groups, ruling was too early to hear the lawsuit.

At least forty-three Catholic organizations, including the archdioceses of New York and Washington, as well as the University of Notre Dame and the Catholic University of America, filed lawsuits in 2012 in courts across the country, arguing that the mandate violates the freedom of religion guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.

The contraceptive requirement is part of President Barack Obama’s 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, intended to create almost-universal health-care insurance coverage.

The subpoena case is Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York v. Sebelius, 13-mc-00318, U.S. District Court District of Columbia (Washington). The New York case is Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York v. Sebelius, 12-02542, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).

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