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University of Notre Dame Sues Obama Admin Over Contraceptive Mandate

President Barack Obama delivers his commencement address at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., Sunday, May 17, 2009. (AP)

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (The Blaze/AP) -- In the latest flap surrounding a contentious mandate, the University of Notre Dame is joining dioceses, among other institutions, in suing Obama administration officials over the requirement that most employers cover birth control.

This is the second major development to occur surrounding the mandate in recent days. Last Wednesday, Franciscan University, a Catholic institution in Steubensville, Ohio, claimed that Obamacare has forced the school to end its student heath insurance program. The massive health care overhaul, the university says, has led to cost increases that no longer make offering the program a viable possibility.

(Related: Catholic University Drops Student Health Care Plan Over Contraceptive Mandate)

On Monday, Notre Dame, equally disenchanted with the plan, said that the mandate violates religious freedom by requiring many religiously affiliated hospitals, schools and charities to comply. President Barack Obama offered to soften the mandate to accommodate religious groups, but U.S. Roman Catholic bishops say the change doesn't go far enough.

Other religious colleges are already suing the Health and Human Service agency and administration officials over the mandate. Still, observers had been closely watching for Notre Dame's next step. The Washington Times has a fuller assessment of the latest legal battles that the federal govenment faces as a result of the mandate:

The archdioceses of New York, Washington, D.C. and St. Louis and the University of Notre Dame filed lawsuits over President Obama’s contraception mandate Monday, along with dozens of other Catholic dioceses, schools and charities in a major legal challenge to a key part of Mr. Obama’s health care overhaul law.

Seeking to overturn the administration’s requirement for employers to include contraception in employee health insurance plans, 42 groups filed suit in a dozen federal courts around the country, including the dioceses of Dallas, Fort Worth, Rockville Centre, Pittsburgh and the Michigan Catholic Conference.

The lawsuits come a week after the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops rejected the administration’s revised final version of the mandate, saying that the administration’s various exceptions for religious groups didn’t go nearly far enough to protect religious freedom. The administration’s final rule allowed faith-affiliated institutions such as hospitals and universities to opt out of providing coverage for certain contraception and sterilization procedures, though employees could still get such coverage from the insurance companies themselves.

Notre Dame is the most prominent Roman Catholic school in the country. The university came under then unprecedented criticism from U.S. bishops and others in 2009 for inviting Obama as commencement speaker. Obama supports abortion rights.

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