A new chapter in Notre Dame’s birth control fight
University of Notre Dame employees and students will not lose their free birth control after all. Last week, the Catholic college announced it would no longer provide contraceptives through a third-party administrator after the Trump administration ended the Obamacare requirement that all employee health plans cover the drugs. But two days later, university officials said the third party, Meritain Health/OptumRx, would continue to provide contraceptives, free of charge, even though it has no expectation for reimbursement from the federal government.
Notre Dame joined other Christian nonprofits to fight the contraceptive and abortifacient mandate, arguing the government had no right to make it pay for something the Catholic Church teaches against. In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled closely held for-profit companies could not be forced to provide the coverage if their owners had a religious objection, but the question of how that principle applied to nonprofit groups remained unresolved before President Donald Trump took office. Shortly after his inauguration, Trump rescinded the mandate, ending the yearslong court battle. Now a new battle starts: Three Notre Dame students have joined a lawsuit objecting to the Trump administration’s policy change. —L.J.
A nurse is suing Duke University over its requirement that all medical professionals working in its hospital emergency department be willing to participate in abortions. Sara Pedro worked as a nurse in New York for eight years before moving to North Carolina to take a job with Duke. During her two-week orientation, a trainer informed Pedro that Duke did not allow any religious exemptions to participating in abortions, a procedure frequently done in the hospital’s emergency department. Pedro applied for an exemption anyway and alleges Duke employees targeted her for discrimination in order to force her to quit. The lawsuit, filed in federal court by attorneys with Thomas More Law Center, claims Duke violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act by discriminating against Pedro on the basis of religion. “At its heart, this case presents a simple yet important question: Must a devout Catholic abandon fundamental tenets of her faith if she wishes to be employed as a nurse at Duke University Hospital? Despite the fact that defendant Duke has answered ‘yes’ to this question, federal and state civil rights laws say otherwise,” the lawsuit states. —L.J.
Kim Davis seeks reelection in rural Kentucky
Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who made national headlines for refusing to issue marriage licenses in 2015 to same-sex couples, plans to seek reelection in 2018. Davis spent several days in jail over her stance, which stemmed from her belief that marriage is between one man and one woman. At the time, Kentucky marriage licenses included the clerk’s name, which Davis argued amounted to a stamp of approval. The state legislature later changed the license requirement to remove the clerk’s name. Davis plans to run as a Republican although Rowan County is a Democratic stronghold. The local Democratic Party head said no one has yet announced plans to run against her. —L.J.
New home for Ten Commandments monument
The Ten Commandments monument in Bloomfield, N.M., will get a new home after supporters lost their appeal to have the U.S. Supreme Court hear their case. Kevin Mauzy, founder of the Four Corners Historical Monument Project, told the local newspaper the granite monument will move from the city hall lawn to the First Baptist Church of Bloomfield, chosen for its central location in the community. Two city residents sued over the monument in 2011, alleging it violated the U.S. Constitution’s ban on government endorsement of religion. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with lower courts, which ruled for the plaintiffs. Last month the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case. —L.J.