On March 20, 2013, Eden Foods, Inc., and its owner filed a lawsuit in the Eastern District of Michigan against the Federal Government under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), and the First Amendment. Plaintiffs, represented by the Thomas More Law Center, a Catholic non-profit legal services, 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 providing contraception coverage violates their sincerely held religious beliefs.
On March 22, 2013, the court (Judge Denise Page Hood) denied plaintiffs' motion for a temporary restraining order, noting that they had not expressed a distinction between the corporate entity Eden Foods and the owner who has brought the instant suit as Eden Foods' sole shareholder. Without this, it is not clear that the owner has standing to challenge the ACA on behalf of Eden Foods for purposes of the RFRA.
On May 21, 2013, the court denied plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction. Regarding the RFRA claim, the court agreed with other decision holding that the ACA mandate applies only to the corporate entity, not to its officers or owners, and that as to the individual owners, any burden imposed on them individually by the contraception mandate is remote and too attenuated to be considered substantial for purposes of the RFRA. And regarding plaintiffs' First Amendment complaints, the court found that the ACA was generally applicable and rationally related to the government objective of promoting public health and gender equality.
Plaintiffs appealed the decision denying preliminary injunction to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit on May 21, 2013. On May 31, 2013, the parties filed a joint motion to stay the proceedings pending the appeal. The court (Judge Denise Page Hood) granted the motion on June 12, 2013.
On October 24, 2013 the Sixth Circuit (Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey) denied plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction and remanded the case to the district court with instructions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. 2013 WL 1190001 at 15. The court relied on the law of the Circuit, as recently announced in Autocam Corp. v. SebeliusFA-MI-0005
, which established that individual owners/shareholders have no standing to bring their claims against the government in their individual capacities under RFRA, nor can they assert the individual plaintiffs' claims on their behalf. The court emphasized that the incorporated business is a distinct legal entity with legal rights, obligations, power, and privileges different form those of the natural individuals who created it, who own it, or whom it employs.
On November 12, 2013, plaintiffs petitioned for write of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court. That petition was held at the Supreme Court while the Court decided Burwell v. Hobby Lobby
(also known as Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius). The Hobby Lobby decision
issued on June 30, 2014: In 5-4 opinion by Justice Alito, the Court held that the HHS regulations imposing the contraceptive mandate violate RFRA, when applied to closely-held for-profit corporations. The Court emphasized, however, that alternative methods for meeting the government's asserted interest were available. In light of the Hobby Lobby opinion, on July 1, 2014, the Supreme Court vacated the judgment in this (Eden Foods) case, and remanded it to the United
States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit for further
consideration. Wyatt Fore - 04/19/2013
Richard Jolly - 04/03/2014