On September 20, 2013, a group of religious-based universities filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Oklahoma. The plaintiffs sued the federal government under the First Amendment, Fifth Amendment Due Process Clause, Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the Administrative Procedure Act. The plaintiffs, Southern Nazarene University, Oklahoma Wesleyan University, Oklahoma Baptist University, and Mid-America Christian University, alleged that the Affordable Care Act's requirement that employee and student health plans provide coverage of contraception violated their religious foundings. The plaintiffs, represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, asked the court to rule that the ACA's contraception insurance mandate, even with the accommodation for non-profit religious organizations, was unconstitutional. Specifically, the plaintiffs asked for both a preliminary and permanent injunction keeping the government from enforcing the contraception insurance mandate against them.
On November 27, 2013, the plaintiffs filed a motion for a preliminary injunction. On December 23, 2013, the district court (Judge Stephen P. Friot) granted the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction. The court concluded that the government had not shown that the plaintiffs' objection to certain methods of contraception, including Plan B, frustrated the overall goal of ACA contraception coverage.
On January 17, 2014, the court granted the government's unopposed motion to stay the case until March 1, 2014. The government appealed this case to the Tenth Circuit on February 11, 2014. On July 14, 2015, the Tenth Circuit (Judge Scott Matheson, Jr.) denied the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction, (794 F.3d 1151) in an opinion that joined this case with Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged v. Sebelius
. The same day, the plaintiffs petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari. The plaintiffs objected to using the expanded accommodation designed by the court, in which they would not have to notify their insurers directly about their religious opposition to contraception, but would have to communicate that opposition and the name of their insurer to the Department of Health and Human Services. The plaintiffs requested a rehearing en banc, but the Tenth Circuit denied the request in an order on September 3, 2015. (799 F.3d 1315).
On November 6, 2015, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in this case. The Court considered whether notifying the federal government by signing a form identifying the employer as a religious nonprofit that objects to the contraceptive services mandate (so that the government can work with the insurer or benefits provider to ensure employees have contraceptive coverage) violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or constitutes the least restrictive means of achieving a compelling government interest. This case was consolidated with six other cases dealing with this issue. Together, the cases are known as Zubik v. Burwell [II]
This case was argued on March 23, 2016. On March 29, 2016, in an unusual move, the Supreme Court directed the parties to file supplemental briefs suggesting a solution to their disagreement, in which employees could still receive contraception coverage without employers giving any notice to the government. On May 16, 2016, the Court issued a per curiam order remanding all seven cases to their respective courts of appeals, ordering the lower courts to give the parties 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. The Court took no position on the merits of this case. This case is now being considered on remand by the Tenth Circuit. Mallory Jones - 02/24/2014
Kate Craddock - 06/12/2016