On May 21, 2012, the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth-South Bend and affiliated Catholic organizations filed a U.S. District Court lawsuit in the Eastern District of Missouri against the Federal Government under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and ...
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On May 21, 2012, the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth-South Bend and affiliated Catholic organizations filed a U.S. District Court lawsuit in the Eastern District of Missouri against the Federal Government under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and the First Amendment. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, seek to enjoin enforcement of provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) extending universal contraception coverage in employer-sponsored private health insurance coverage. The plaintiffs contend that this mandatory contraception coverage violates their sincerely held religious beliefs.
On March 14, 2013, Judge Jon A. DeGuilio stayed the case for no longer than 45 days pending (1) the finalization of contraceptive coverage rules from the Department of Health and Human Services; and (2) the appeal of University of Notre Dame v. Sebelius in the 7th Circuit. The stay was lifted on July 31, 2013.
On September 6, 2013, the Church amended their complaint to challenge the regulation as amended. 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. The plaintiffs are, thus, the but-for cause of providing contraception coverage. The plaintiffs asked the court to grant a preliminary and permanent injunction against enforcement of the relevant provisions of the ACA.
On December 27, 2013, the District Court (Judge Jon E. Deguilio) granted the Church's motion for preliminary injunction. 2013 WL 6843012 at *1. The court recognized that while the Diocese itself was exempt from the contraception mandate as a religious employer, the remaining affiliated organizations were subject to the self-certification accommodation as put forth in the amended regulation. The Court held that the remaining plaintiffs demonstrated a reasonable likelihood of success on their RFRA challenge, noting that requiring self-certification represented a substantial burden on their religious exercise by compelling them to facilitate and serve as the conduit through which objectionable contraceptive products and services are ultimately provided to their employees. The Court also found that the application of the two regulations-the exemption and the accommodation-had the ultimate effect of dividing the Catholic Church into two separate entities which has created a substantial burden on the Diocese as well. The Court then found that the government did not show that the contraception mandate was the least restrictive means to further a compelling governmental interest, noting that were other ways to promote public health and gender equality that were not burdensome on religious liberty.
On February 24, 2014, the Government filed an interlocutory appeal challenging the preliminary injunction. Oral Arguments are scheduled for Dec. 3, 2014.Christopher Schad - 05/20/2012
Wyatt Fore - 03/29/2013
Richard Jolly - 04/20/2014