Sunday, January 05, 2014

Texas District Court Grants Permanent Injunction In "Church Plan" Challenge To Contraceptive Mandate Compromise

In Catholic Diocese of Beaumont v. Sebelius, (ED TX, Jan. 2, 2014), a Texas federal district court issued a permanent injunction barring enforcement of the Affordable Care Act contraceptive coverage mandate compromise against the Catholic Diocese of Beaumont and Catholic Charities of Southeast Texas.  The court rejected the government's argument that no substantial burden is present here because of the special exemption of "church plans" from ERISA, on which enforcement against third-party administrators is based. The court said in part:
Requiring the head of a religious organization to sign a putatively correct statement of religious belief, which the Government has defined to authorize a third party to take an action that is contrary to those religious beliefs, imposes a substantial burden on the free exercise of religion. That conclusion is not changed by the Government’s argument that, at present, it does not have the power to compel the third party to act.