Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Two Pennsylvania Religious Non-Profit Cases Rule Against Contraceptive Mandate Accommodation

In Perisco v. Sebelius, (WD PA, Dec. 20, 2013), a Pennsylvania federal district court granted the unopposed motion by the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh and the Catholic Diocese of Erie to convert a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the contraceptive coverage mandate granted in November (see prior posting) into a permanent injunction. The permanent injunction provides that the bishops will not have to authorize any charitable or educational entity under their control to sign the self-certification form called for in the final Affordable Care Act rules that set up an accommodation for religious non-profits, and that various charitable and educational affiliates will not need to comply with the mandate. In a statement following the decision, Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik said that the government now is likely to appeal the decision to the 3rd Circuit. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports on the decision.

In Geneva College v. Sebelius, (WD PA, Dec. 23, 2013), a Pennsylvania federal district court granted a preliminary injunction, upholding Geneva College's objection under RFRA to complying with the final Affordable Care Act rules creating an accommodation for religious non-profits that object to the contraceptive coverage mandate. In June, the court had already granted Geneva College a similar preliminary injunction in connection with its student health insurance policies. (See prior posting.)  Now it has granted a similar injunction as to the College's health plan for its employees, finding that requiring the College to submit the self-certification form called for by the final rules likely creates a substantial burden on Geneva's religious exercise:
... [I]ts submission of the self-certification form is not too attenuated from the provision of the objected to services. Instead, it is the necessary stimulus behind their provision.... Courts should not undertake to dissect religious beliefs and second-guess where an objector draws the line when analyzing substantial burden questions.
Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports on the decision.