Monday, June 02, 2014

Government Says There Is No Controversy In Unusual Contraceptive Mandate Case

An unusual lawsuit involving the Affordable Care Act contraceptive coverage mandate was filed in April by Media Research Center (MRC) with little notice given to it, at least until a May 15 press release. MRC is the parent of CNSNews. In dozens of other cases, religious non-profits have sued objecting to the requirement that they complete the self-certification form to opt out that will lead to contraceptive coverage being furnished directly by the insurer or third-party administrator. The complaint (full text) in Media Research Center v. Sebelius, (ED VA, April 11, 2014), on the other hand, alleges that plaintiff has filed the self-certification form and has sought assurance from the government that it qualifies as an "eligible organization" entitled to avail itself of the opt out. It alleges that the government has refused to provide such assurance, and asks the court to issue a declaratory judgment that Media Research Center is an "eligible organization".

Then in a second count, it seeks an injunction against enforcement of the mandate and a declaratory judgement that the regulations allowing religious non-profits to opt out violates the Establishment Clause:
89. Determining which entities qualify as "religious employers" or "eligible organizations" requires the Government to determine (1) whether the organization truly seeks to inculcate "religious values," (2) whether an objection to the Contraception Mandate is truly "religious", and (3) whether an entity truly holds itself out as a "religious" organization.
90. The Contraception Mandate thus makes the Government the arbiter of which organizations are, or are not, sufficiently "religious" to qualify for exceptions to the Contraception mandate.
91. This entails an unconstitutionally invasive inquiry into an organization's religious purpose, beliefs, and practices.
92. Furthermore, the regulations are framed to value the activities of traditional religious groups (e.g, churches, ministries, and proselytizing organizations) more highly than non-traditional religious organizations (like MRC, which defends traditional American Judeo-Christian beliefs by exposing the hypocrisies and fallacies of media attacks on those beliefs).
The government in its Memorandum In Opposition (May 23, 2014) (full text) argues that there is no controversy present:
There is no dispute that MRC has determined that it is eligible for an accommodation and has executed the self-certification. There is also no dispute that MRC has now done everything that the regulations require in order to avail itself of an accommodation. Defendants have not disputed MRC’s status as an eligible organization, and have not suggested that they have any intent or reason to do so in the future. In fact, there is no dispute of any kind relevant to the instant motion....
Qualification for an accommodation depends on a self-certification—it does not require the government to make any determination at all. Nothing in the regulations or elsewhere suggests that defendants will undertake any sort of inquiry regarding MRC’s determination. Indeed, defendants refused to make a definitive pronouncement on MRC’s eligibility for an accommodation in this case because the government cannot possibly be in the business of making the type of individualized determination that MRC seeks for every potentially eligible organization. To agree to do so here would be to open the floodgates for such requests, which could quickly overwhelm defendants’ resources.