The Obama administration had argued that the archdiocese’s lawsuit was premature, since the administration may still make adjustments to the mandate that would stop it from having any effect on the archdiocese.
After announcing the mandate in February, the Obama administration had announced a “safe harbor” that would prevent the mandate from applying to certain religious employers until August 2013.
However, Judge Brian Cogan slapped down the “safe harbor” argument, saying, “the First Amendment does not require citizens to accept assurances from the government that, if the government later determines it has made a misstep, it will take ameliorative action.”
“There is no, ‘Trust us, changes are coming’ clause in the Constitution,” said the judge. “To the contrary, the Bill of Rights itself, and the First Amendment in particular, reflect a degree of skepticism towards governmental self-restraint and self-correction.”
The judge observed that the archdiocese is preparing for the possibility of millions of dollars in damages should the mandate take effect. He also pointed out that the rule was announced 10 months ago and that “the Departments have had ample opportunity to enact a meaningful change to the Coverage Mandate. The fact that they have not further suggests the likelihood of injuries to plaintiffs.”