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Case Name Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta v. Sebelius FA-GA-0001
Docket / Court 12-cv-03489 ( N.D. Ga. )
State/Territory Georgia
Case Type(s) Speech and Religious Freedom
Special Collection Contraception Insurance Mandate
Case Summary
On October 5, 2012, the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta, the Catholic Diocese of Savannah, and affiliated Catholic organizations filed this U.S. District Court lawsuit in the Northern District of Georgia against the Federal Government under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), the ... read more >
On October 5, 2012, the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta, the Catholic Diocese of Savannah, and affiliated Catholic organizations filed this U.S. District Court lawsuit in the Northern District of Georgia against the Federal Government under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), the First and Fifth Amendments, and as a violation of the Constitution's Separation of Powers provisions. 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. Plaintiffs contend that this mandatory contraception coverage violates their sincerely held religious beliefs.

Plaintiffs amended their complaint a first time on December 31, 2012, and a second time on August 19, 2013 to challenge the ACA as amended by the 2013 Final Rules. They argued that while the Diocese itself likely fell within the "religious employer" exception, the affiliated Catholic entities did not and, instead, were considered "eligible organizations" qualifying for an accommodation. The accommodation would require plaintiffs to provide self-certification to their insurance provider setting forth their religious objections to the ACA, in turn trigging an obligation on the part of the insurance provider to procure the services plaintiffs find objectionable. According to the plaintiffs, this series of events makes them the but-for cause of providing contraception coverage in violation of their sincerely held beliefs. Plaintiffs continued to ask the court to grant a permanent injunction against enforcement of the relevant provisions of the ACA.

On March 26, 2014, the District Court (Judge William S. Duffey, Jr.) permanently enjoined the government from enforcing the contraceptive mandate against plaintiffs. 2014 WL 1256373. The court noted that the contraception mandate, including the self-certification form, placed a substantial burden on plaintiffs by compelling them to affirmatively modify their behavior and violate their religious beliefs. The court also held that the general applicability of the law was not a compelling state interest nor was the conception mandate the least restrictive means of furthering that interest. On May 23, 2014, the government appealed this case to the Eleventh Circuit.

On May 30, 2014, Judge Duffey issued an opinion and order in response to the government's motion for Reconsideration on the Dioceses' RFRA and free exercise claims. 2014 WL 2441742. The government had also asked the court to reconsider whether or not the affiliated entities maintained a "church plan" under ERISA. If they did, they would be exempt from the self-certification requirement, and not have standing to challenge the mandate. Judge Duffey held that the Dioceses' RFRA and free exercise claims should be dismissed, and clarified that the affiliated organizations did not need to establish that they were church plans, because the self-certification requirement was a substantial burden on their religious exercise.

This case was consolidated on appeal with Eternal Word Television Network v. Sebelius. On February 18, 2016, the Eleventh Circuit (Judge Jill Pryor) held that the contraception mandate does not violate the RFRA because it is the least restrictive means of achieving a compelling government interest, but enjoined enforcement of the mandate against the plaintiffs because the issue of whether the accommodation violates the RFRA was currently before the Supreme Court. 818 F.3d 1122. On May 31, 2016, following the Supreme Court's decision in Zubik v. Sebelius [II] that religious nonprofits and the government should return the related cases to the courts of appeals and attempt to negotiate a solution, the Eleventh Circuit vacated their February 19, 2016 order in this case, and directed the parties to submit supplemental briefing.

This case is ongoing.

Wyatt Fore - 04/05/2013
Richard Jolly - 05/05/2014
Kate Craddock - 10/09/2016

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Establishment Clause
Free Exercise Clause
Freedom of speech/association
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
Hospital/Health Department
Religion discrimination
Religious programs / policies
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit religious organization
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. ยงยง 551 et seq.
Religious Freedom Rest. Act/Religious Land Use and Inst. Persons Act (RFRA/RLUIPA)
Defendant(s) United States Department of Health and Human Services
United States Department of Labor
United States Department of Treasury
Plaintiff Description The Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta, the Catholic Diocese of Savannah, GA, and affiliated Catholic organizations.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Source of Relief Litigation
Case Ongoing Yes
Case Listing FA-AL-0003 : Eternal World Television Network v. Sebelius (S.D. Ala.)
1:12-cv-03489-WSD (N.D. Ga.)
FA-GA-0001-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/14/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
First Amended and Recast Complaint [ECF# 21]
FA-GA-0001-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/31/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Directing Plaintiffs not to File a Written Response to Defendants Initial Motion to Dismiss [ECF# 24] (N.D. Ga.)
FA-GA-0001-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/08/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Second Amended and Recast Verified Complaint [ECF# 56]
FA-GA-0001-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/19/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion and Order [ECF# 108] (2014 WL 1256373) (N.D. Ga.)
FA-GA-0001-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 03/26/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion and Order (2014 WL 2441742) (N.D. Ga.)
FA-GA-0001-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 05/30/2014
Source: Bloomberg Law
Opinion (818 F.3d 1122)
FA-GA-0001-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 02/18/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Duffey, William S. Jr. (N.D. Ga.)
FA-GA-0001-0002 | FA-GA-0001-0004 | FA-GA-0001-0005 | FA-GA-0001-9000
Pryor, Jill Anne (Eleventh Circuit)
Plaintiff's Lawyers Burnette, Jason T. (Georgia)
FA-GA-0001-0001 | FA-GA-0001-9000
Forte, Stephen M. (Georgia)
FA-GA-0001-0001 | FA-GA-0001-0003 | FA-GA-0001-9000
Lea, Brian C. (Georgia)
Metcalf, Janine Cone (Georgia)
FA-GA-0001-0001 | FA-GA-0001-0003 | FA-GA-0001-9000
Monde, David M. (Georgia)
FA-GA-0001-0001 | FA-GA-0001-9000
Smith, E. Kendrick (Georgia)
FA-GA-0001-0001 | FA-GA-0001-0003 | FA-GA-0001-9000
Thomas, J. Curtis (Georgia)
FA-GA-0001-0003 | FA-GA-0001-9000
Williams, James R. (Georgia)
FA-GA-0001-0001 | FA-GA-0001-0003 | FA-GA-0001-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Bennett, Michelle Renee (District of Columbia)
Pollack, Michael Charles (District of Columbia)
Other Lawyers Brock, Chad Michael (Georgia)

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