ROCKVILLE CENTRE—Catholic Health Services of Long Island (CHS) welcomed the “thoughtful decision and final judgment,” of a federal judge Dec. 13 which said the Affordable Care Act mandate violates the religious freedom of the four nonprofit plaintiffs — CHS in Rockville Centre, two Catholic high schools in the New York Archdiocese and ArchCare, which provides health care in the Archdiocese.

The ruling grants CHS and the other organizations a permanent injunction prohibiting the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from “enforcing or implementing the challenged regulations” which were part of a mandate under the Affordable Care Act requiring employers to provide health coverage which includes services – such as free contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs and sterilizations – which are against Church teaching. The mandate is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2014.

“Religious freedom—our ‘First Freedom’—is guaranteed in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Constitution of the United States. This decision wisely and properly affirms that this freedom extends beyond merely being free to choose how we worship, and includes how we act in accordance with our religious beliefs,” read the statement from CHS, the diocesan sponsored health care system which includes six hospitals, three skilled nursing facilities, a regional home health agency, hospice and a multiservice, community-based agency for persons with special needs.