This case is a revival of a dismissed claim from the Northern District of Alabama. (FA-AL-0002
On October 28, 2013, a nonprofit Catholic media network filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama against the Federal Government under the First Amendment, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ("RFRA"), and the Administrative Procedures Act ("APA"). Plaintiffs, represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, asked the court to issue a permanent injunction prohibiting enforcement of provisions of the Affordable Care Act ("ACA") extending universal contraception coverage to employer-sponsored private health insurance coverage. Specifically, plaintiffs note that they have always ensured that their self-insured health plan does not cover services inconsistent with its religious beliefs and contend that compliance with the contraception coverage requirement is a substantial burden on their religious exercise. Plaintiffs further claim that though they are eligible for the accommodation to the mandate available to nonprofits, they remain burdened by the mandate.
On June 17, 2014, the District Court granted summary judgment for the defendants on the counts related to RFRA, the First Amendment Free Exercise Clause on substantial burden to religious exercise and establishment of religion, and compelled speech. The Court denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss the claims related to violations of the Administrative Procedures Act, and granted the motion to dismiss on the remaining constitutional claims. On June 18, 2014, the District Court stayed the remaining claims, all related to the Administrative Procedure Act, pending the appeal of partial summary judgment. On June 18, 2014, the plaintiffs appealed to the Eleventh Circuit. On June 30, 2014, following the Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby
, the Eleventh Circuit granted the plaintiff’s motion for an injunction pending appeal.
The Eleventh Circuit heard oral argument in this case on February 4, 2015, and on February 18, 2016, Judge Jill Pryor ruled that the contraception regulation does not substantially burden the plaintiffs' religious exercise. The court further held that the government has a compelling interest in ensuring contraception coverage, and the mandate is the least restrictive means of furthering that interest.
However, the court stayed its ruling pending a Supreme Court decision in Zubik v. Burwell [II]
. On May 16, 2016 in Zubik [II], 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 the case. Following the ruling in Zubik [II], on May 31, 2016, the Eleventh Circuit vacated their prior decision against the plaintiffs, and ordered the parties to submit supplemental briefing addressing the Supreme Court's concerns in the Zubik cases. The court also enjoined enforcement of the contraceptive mandate against the plaintiffs pending further order of the court. This case is ongoing.Richard Jolly - 03/26/2014
Kate Craddock - 10/23/2016