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Two North Texas Catholic Dioceses Sue Obama Administration Over Contraception

By Jack Fink & Jay Gormley, CBS 11 News

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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - The Roman Catholic Dioceses of Dallas and Fort Worth have both filed a federal lawsuit against President Barack Obama’s Administration over contraception. This issue has been very controverisal, and has pitted the administration against the Catholic Church.

In its lawsuit, filed Monday morning in Dallas federal court, the Dallas diocese said that the federal government is requiring it to violate its religious beliefs by providing and paying for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and contraception. A similar lawsuit filed by the Fort Worth diocese — also on Monday morning in Fort Worth federal court — echoes these statements.

“These mandates force us to fund and pay for procedures such as contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs in our institutions and our ministries,” said Bishop Kevin Vann of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth. “It’s forcing us to do things and provide things we cannot.”

The two DFW dioceses are among 43 churches, schools, hospitals and other institutions that filed such lawsuits on Monday.

The lawsuits name the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the U.S Department of Labor, Secretary Hilda Solis, the U.S. Department of Treasury and Secretary Timothy Geithner in the list of defendants.

“A lawsuit is certainly a grave matter, but so is religious freedom and the ability to practice our faith,” Vann said.

The Obama Administration has said that churches and organizations affiliated with churches would be exempt from the rule requiring employers to provide contraception as part of their health coverage to employees. But many of the groups and dioceses are self-insured, and believe that they are not exempt.

Constitutional law attorney Frank Valenzuela says the lawsuits are winnable.

“I think that their claims under the First Amendment and under federal statutory law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in particular, they’re strong claims,” Valenzuela said.

Both the Dallas and Fort Worth Dioceses say the language in the law is too narrow and it will not protect schools, hospitals and other catholic institutions from the mandate.

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