The Diocese of Nashville and seven other Catholic entities in Tennessee filed suit Sept. 12 to block a government mandate requiring that they provide contraceptive coverage through employee insurance.

"It is particularly important for us to file this action at this time," said Rick Musacchio, director of communications for the Nashville diocese, in a statement Wednesday.

The diocese was joined in the suit, filed in the Middle Tennessee district court, by Catholic Charities of Tennessee, Father Ryan High School, Pope John Paul II High School, Mary Queen of Angels, Villa Maria Manor, St. Mary Villa, and Aquinas College – all of which are independent institutions under Tennessee state law.

The Catholic groups are opposing the Department of Health and Human Services mandate, which is part of the the 2010 Affordable Health Care Act, and was finalized in February 2012. It requires that group insurance plans cover FDA-approved contraceptives and sterilization.

Mary Queen of Angels, St. Mary Villa, and Villa Maria Manor found last November that their insurance plan had included coverage for oral contraceptives.

When they immediately tried to remove this coverage from their plan, their carrier, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Tenneessee, told them the coverage could not be removed because of the health care act.

Because they were not able to have the coverage removed, their plan was not eligible for what the department has called "temporary enforcement of safe harbor" from the mandate.

The five other institutions are due to face the same problem when their insurance plans come up for renewal within the next year.

The mandate went into effect Aug. 1, 2012, but for those eligible for the enforcement of safe harbor, it will not go into effect until Aug. 1, 2013.

Dozens of other suits by dioceses and businesses have been filed to block the mandate forcing employers to provide health insurance for services which violate their conscience. Hobby Lobby, which is owned by a Christian, also sued on Sept. 12.

"It is not about whether people have a right to abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception. Those services are and will continue to be freely available in the United States, and nothing prevents the Government itself from making them more widely available," the Nashville groups' lawsuit reads.

"But the right to such services does not authorize the Government to force the Plaintiffs to violate their own consciences by making them provide, pay for, and/or facilitate those services to others, contrary to their sincerely held religious beliefs."