On October 9, 2012, two Baptist universities filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. They alleged violations of their rights under the First Amendment, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ("RFRA"), and the Administrative Procedures Act ("APA") by the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and the Treasury. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, asked the court for both declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging that federal rules adopted pursuant to the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) violated their religious freedom and free speech rights by requiring them to provide coverage for contraception through their group health insurance plans. Claiming that providing contraceptive coverage would both defy their Baptist faith and compel speech contrary to their beliefs, the plaintiffs sought an exemption from the ACA's contraception mandate for themselves and other organizations with similar religious objections.
Judge Lee H. Rosenthal granted a stay on December 20, 2012. On March 8, 2013, Westminster Theological Seminary filed a motion to intervene. The court granted an unopposed motion to lift the stay on July 31, 2013. On December 27, 2013, the District Court granted partial summary judgment to the plaintiffs on their RFRA claim and enjoined the government from enforcing the ACA contraception insurance mandate against the plaintiffs.
On February 24, 2014, the government appealed the case to the Fifth Circuit. On April 28, 2014, the Fifth Circuit consolidated this case with University of Texas v. Sebelius and Roman Catholic Diocese of Beaumont v. Sebelius
. On January 19, 2015, the Fifth Circuit denied the plaintiffs’ request for hearing en banc. On June 22, 2015, the Fifth Circuit (Judge Jerry E. Smith) reversed the relevant district court holdings that the requirement to notify the government of their religious objection to the contraceptive services mandate violated RFRA. 793 F.3d 449. On July 2, 2015, the court denied the request of plaintiff Westminster Theological Seminary to stay the mandate or rehear the case. On September 30, 2015, the court denied the plaintiffs’ request for rehearing en banc, but granted the plaintiffs’ motion to stay on October 7, 2015, pending filing of a petition for writ of certiorari. 807 F.3d 630.
On November 6, 2015, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in this case to consider whether notifying the federal government by signing a form identifying the employer as a religious nonprofit that objects to the contraceptive services mandate (so that the government can work with the insurer or benefits provider to ensure employees have contraceptive coverage) violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or constitutes the least restrictive means of achieving a compelling government interest. This case was consolidated with six other cases dealing with this issue. Together, the cases are known as Zubik v. Burwell [II]
This case was argued in the Supreme Court on March 23, 2016. On March 29, 2016, in an unusual move, the Court directed the parties to file supplemental briefs suggesting a solution to their disagreement, in which employees could still receive contraception coverage without employers giving any notice to the government. On May 16, 2016, the Court issued a per curiam order remanding all seven cases to their respective courts of appeals, ordering the lower courts to give the parties time to come to agreement on an approach that that "accommodates petitioners’ religious exercise while at the same time ensuring that women covered by petitioners’ health plans 'receive full and equal health coverage, including contraceptive coverage.'" 136 S.Ct 1557, 1560. The Court took no position on the merits of this case. This case is now being considered on remand by the Fifth Circuit. Hannah Swanson - 03/15/2013
Mallory Jones - 02/18/2014
Kate Craddock - 06/12/2016