A federal court dismissed claims against Ascension Health Alliance, St. Louis, that its pension plan was not entitled to church plan status.
The decision, issued May 9 in the U.S. District Court in Detroit, granted Ascension Health's bid to dismiss the case. Calls to the company were not returned at press time.
The ruling goes in the opposite direction of two recent court decisions that allowed similar cases to proceed against Saint Peter's Healthcare System, New Brunswick, N.J, and Catholic Health East, Newtown Square, Pa.
“The health care entity … is in fact controlled by and associated with a church,” Judge Avern Cohn wrote in the opinion. “The church exemption is a congressional choice of historic proportion. And while it may appear to be an irrational distinction, it is a distinction mandated by law.”
“It sets up an interesting timing battle” over which case makes it to the appeals court level first, said Thomas E. Clark Jr., a lawyer with The Lowenbaum Partnership law firm in St. Louis, in an interview.