Forty-one Christian institutions and business have filed lawsuits against the US government over the HHS mandate in obamacare. As their cases work their way through the courts, Ave Maria, a Catholic College in Florida, argues that the uncertainty of this time period is too much a burden on normal operations of the college and on its employees. This appointed time to be used for negotiation between government health & human services officials and employers called “safe harbor” expires in August of 2013.
The SunTimes reports that Ava Maria President Jim Towey said, “safe harbor hurts because it leaves the university in limbo.”
He said university officials have been interviewing for six faculty positions and they don’t know what to tell candidates when they ask about future health care coverage. It also causes budgetary uncertainty and hurts employee morale because they don’t know what kind of health care they will have in 2014 — or if they will have any at all.
Other religious institutions agree safe harbor status doesn’t work as a temporary reprieve. Many, including Ave Maria, have challenged safe harbor and their cause appears to be gaining legal momentum. On Friday, the Washington, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals will be the first appeals court to consider whether the status adequately protects religious employers.
The appeal asks the court to reinstate a lawsuit filed by Wheaton and Belmont Abbey colleges, after a trial court held the lawsuit was premature because of the protection provided by safe harbor.
In a landmark ruling Dec. 5, a federal judge decided a lawsuit filed by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York could proceed. He ruled safe harbor does not mean the plaintiffs are protected.
The judge stated: “There is no ‘Trust us changes are coming’ clause in the Constitution’” and holding off on taking action in the hope the government and religious institutions can arrive at a solution is “ignoring the speeding train that is coming toward plaintiffs in the hope that it will stop.”