On Jan. 30, 2014, a number of Wyoming-based Catholic organizations, filed this lawsuit under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment against the federal department of Health and Human Services. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, asked the court for declaratory and ...
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On Jan. 30, 2014, a number of Wyoming-based Catholic organizations, filed this lawsuit under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment against the federal department of Health and Human Services. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, asked the court for declaratory and injunctive relief, claiming that the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate (including the accommodation offered by the government to some of the plaintiff-organizations) violated the FRFA and First Amendment.
Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that the accommodation provided by HHS for certain religious organizations, which requires them to self-certify that they meet certain criteria and provide a copy of the self-certification to its insurance company or third-party administrator, still burdens their religious faith. Under the accommodation, their insurance plans, the plaintiffs argue, "are the vehicle by which 'free' abortion-inducing products, contraception, sterilization, and related counseling are delivered to the organizations' employees."
The plaintiffs moved for a preliminary injunction, which the Court (Judge Scott W. Skavdahl) denied on May 13th, 2014. The Court determined that submitting a self-certification to their insurance carriers is not a substantial burden on the organizations' religious exercise. The self-certification "enables nothing," Jusge Skavdahl wrote. "The sole 'enabler' is the federal statute that [plaintiffs] ha[ve] been allowed to opt out of." (internal quotation marks omitted). Therefore, the Court held, the plaintiffs did not establish their likely success on the merits, and a preliminary injunction was not warranted.
The plaintiffs filed an interlocutory appeal, and the district court stayed the case until that appeal was resolved. On June 30, 2014, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit (Judges Lucero and Matheson) reversed the district court and granted the preliminary injunction provided that the plaintiffs "inform the Secretary of Health and Human Services in writing" that they are non-profit, religious organizations that have religious objections to providing contraceptive services. The plaintiffs did not, however, need to inform their insurance carriers of anything. The court based this injunction on one the Supreme Court had granted in a similar case, Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged, Denver Colo. v. Sebelius
, 134 S. Ct. 1022 (Jan. 24, 2014) (mem.).
As of December 2014, the case is still ongoing.Andrew Junker - 12/08/2014