On May 21, 2012, the Catholic Archdiocese of New York and other affiliated Catholic organizations filed a lawsuit in the Eastern District of New York against the federal government under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), and the First and Fifth Amendments. Plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, sought to enjoin enforcement of provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) extending universal contraception coverage in employer-sponsored private health insurance coverage. Plaintiffs contended that this mandatory contraception coverage violates their sincerely held religious beliefs.
On December 4, 2012, the court (Judge Brian Cogan) issued an opinion granting in part and denying in part defendants' motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, finding that plaintiffs' complaint were ripe for adjudication. However, because the health plan in question was grandfathered into contraception exemptions (specifically under safe harbor provisions granting temporary relief from mandatory contraception as federal regulations are re-written), that plaintiffs lack standing for that specific claim. However, plaintiffs maintain a cause of action for impending injury from future regulatory changes that would implement mandatory contraceptive coverage for the health plan when the safe harbor provisions terminate.
On April 23, 2013, defendants filed a motion to halt proceedings. They argued that because of pending amendments to the regulation, the contraception mandate would not at any time or under any circumstances be enforced against the plaintiff. On April 24, 2013, the court (Judge Brian Cogan) granted defendant's motion, and stayed the proceeding pending completion of the rulemaking proceedings, but requiring defendants to provide a written status update every 60 days.
On August 14, 2013, Plaintiffs amended their complaint in response to the 2013 Final Rules ACA. They argued that the amended definition of "religious employer" continued to require them to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs by facilitating access to contraception services. This is because the accommodations put forth in the amended law require plaintiffs to provide self-certification to their insurance provider setting forth their religious objections, which in turn triggers an obligation on the part of the insurance provider to procure the services plaintiffs find objectionable. Plaintiffs are, thus, the but-for cause of providing contraception coverage. Plaintiffs asked the court to grant a preliminary and permanent injunction against enforcement of the relevant provisions of the ACA.
On December 13, 2013, the court (Judge Brian Cogan) issued a final judgment, dismissing the claims of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York, and enjoined and restrained the government from enforcing or implementing the challenged regulation against Catholic Health Care System, Catholic Health Services of Long Island; Cardinal Spellman High School; and Monsignor Farrell High School. The court found that the Diocesan plaintiffs fell within the definition of "religious employer" and were entirely exempt from the mandate, while the prevailing plaintiffs were not so defined. The court found that prevailing plaintiffs did suffer substantial injury to their sincerely held religious beliefs by being required to complete self-certification through a third party, but this injury posed no burden to the exempt Diocesan plaintiffs.
On February 11, 2014 the federal government appealed the district court's decision to the Second Circuit. On August 7, 2015, the Second Circuit (Judge Rosemary Pooler) reversed the District Court and denied the injunction, finding that the regulatory accommodation allowing the plaintiffs to opt out of the contraceptive services mandate does not in itself substantially burden the plaintiff’s religious expression. Plaintiffs petitioned for a rehearing en banc, which the Second Circuit denied in an order on December 1, 2015. On January 4, 2016, the Second Circuit granted the plaintiffs’ request to stay pending the filing of a petition for certiorari. Wyatt Fore - 03/29/2013
Richard Jolly - 04/13/2014
Kate Craddock - 02/07/2016