On December 22, 2011, a Christian liberal arts college filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado under the First Amendment, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ("RFRA"), and the Administrative Procedures Act ("APA"), against the U.S. Departments of Health and Human ...
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On December 22, 2011, a Christian liberal arts college filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado under the First Amendment, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ("RFRA"), and the Administrative Procedures Act ("APA"), against the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and the Treasury. The plaintiff, represented by in-house 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 its religious freedom by requiring it to provide coverage for contraception through its group health insurance plan. Specifically, the plaintiff objected to the ACA rules requiring it to provide coverage for emergency contraception, which the plaintiff considered an abortifacient. The plaintiff did not object to other forms of contraception. Claiming that providing coverage for emergency contraception would both contravene its Christian faith and compel speech contrary to its beliefs, the plaintiff sought an exemption from the ACA's contraception mandate for itself and other institutions with similar religious objections.
On February 27, 2012, the defendant Departments moved to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction. The U.S. argued that the plaintiff could not claim any imminent harm because the plaintiff qualified for the enforcement "safe harbor" period extending until January 1, 2014, and because the U.S. was in the process of amending the contraceptive coverage regulations to accommodate the objections of religious institutions like the plaintiff.
The plaintiff filed an amended complaint on March 22, 2012. The amendments expanded on the plaintiff's objections to providing emergency contraception and claimed that the plaintiff would be subject to federal enforcement action no later than July 1, 2014, even given the "safe harbor" period and anticipated amendments. That same day, the plaintiff also filed an opposition to the U.S. motion to dismiss, arguing that it faced imminent harm despite the safe harbor period and anticipated amendments.
On April 9, 2012, the U.S. moved to dismiss the amended complaint for lack of jurisdiction, arguing as before that the safe harbor period and anticipated amendments prevented the plaintiff from alleging any imminent harm. The plaintiff opposed this motion on the same grounds as the first motion to dismiss.
On January 7, 2013, the District Court (Judge Christine M. Arguello) granted the U.S. motion to dismiss. Judge Arguello found that, in light of the government's efforts to address the plaintiff's concerns via the safe harbor period and the anticipated amendments, the plaintiff had not alleged a concrete and imminent harm, and that as a result the plaintiff's claim was not yet ripe for review. Judge Arguello declined to reach the question of the plaintiff's standing. Colorado Christian University v. Sebelius, 2013 WL 93188 (D. Colo. January 07, 2013). The next day, the District Court issued a final judgment dismissing the case in its entirety.Hannah Swanson - 04/15/2013