On December 12, 2012, a for-profit general business corporation, its owner, and two employees filed a 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. 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 contend that this mandatory contraception coverage violated their sincerely held religious beliefs.
The parties consented to adjudication by a magistrate judge, and on December 31, 2012, Magistrate Judge David Noce granted a temporary restraining order stopping the Federal Government from enforcing the contraception mandate. This order was renewed on January 14, 2013, when Judge Noce set it to last until the Court determines the merits of Plaintiffs' case and if further injunctive relief is needed.
On June 14, 2014, the plaintiffs amended their complaint to add three additional plaintiffs, including non-profit corporation CNS International Ministries
(FA-MO-0011 in this Clearinghouse). On June 28, 2013, Magistrate Judge David Noce extended preliminary relief to the newly added plaintiffs, enjoining defendants from applying and enforcing the relevant sections of the ACA.
On September 30, 2013, Judge Noce granted defendants' motion to stay the proceedings pending Eight Circuit Court of Appeals rulings on two similar cases, Annex Medical, Inc v. Sebelius, No 13-1118
and O'Brien v. U.S. Dep't of Health and Human Services, No. 12-3357
. The court also extended the preliminary injunction for all parties until further order.
On December 4, 2013, the plaintiffs amended their complaint a second time in response to the updates to the contraceptive mandate implementing regulation finalized July 2, 2013. Plaintiffs argued that the requirement in the amended regulation for plaintiffs to self-certify their religious objections to their insurance provider acts as a trigger for the services plaintiffs finds objectionable. Plaintiffs are, thus, the but-for cause of providing contraception coverage. On December 30, 2013, Judge Noce sustained the preliminary injunction against defendants and extended it to the non-profit plaintiffs.
On February 28, 2014, the government filed an interlocutory appeal of the extended injunction with the Eighth Circuit.
On February 13, 2015, following the Supreme Court's June 2014 holding in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby
that the HHS regulations imposing the contraceptive mandate violate RFRA when applied to closely-held for-profit corporations, the court entered a permanent injunction against the defendants, prohibiting them from enforcing the July 2013 version of the contraception mandate against all plaintiffs. On June 17, 2015, the District Court also awarded attorney fees and costs for the for-profit plaintiffs.
On September 17, 2015, the Eighth Circuit issued an opinion affirming the District Court's injunctive relief for the non-profit plaintiffs. 801 F.3d 927. The court accepted the the plaintiff's argument that they will be forced to violate their religious beliefs by complying with either the contraceptive mandate or the accommodation process or to incur severe monetary penalties for refusing to comply. The court cited a Supreme Court injunction issued in Wheaton College v. Sebelius
on July 3, 2014, which held that the nonprofit accommodation process, requiring the objecting organization to notify their insurer, or provide specifications about their employee insurance to HHS, could be satisfied by a general notification to HHS of their religious views. 134 S.Ct. 2806.
On October 9, 2015, the District Court entered a final judgement against the government and in favor of the for-profit plaintiffs. The non-profit plaintiffs petitioned for certiorari, and on May 16, 2016, the Supreme Court granted certiorari and ordered the case remanded to the Eighth Circuit. 2016 WL 2842448. The Court ordered that the case be considered under its per curiam order in Zubik v. Burwell [II]
ordering lower courts to give religious nonprofits and the government 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. This case is ongoing. Kate Craddock - 10/30/2016
Richard Jolly - 04/06/2014
Maria Ricaurte - 10/11/2015