Wednesday, July 02, 2014

District Court Grants Preliminary Injunction, Quoting Same-Day's SCOTUS Opinion In Hobby Lobby

In Archdiocese of St. Louis v. Burwell, (ED MO, June 30, 2014), a Missouri federal district court granted a preliminary injunction to Catholic non-profit organizations preventing enforcement of the contraceptive coverage mandate accommodation against them. The court rejected the government's argument that the religious-based organizations are not injured (and thus lack standing) because the government has no authority under ERISA to enforce against the third party administrator of a "church plan" the requirement that it furnish contraceptive coverage directly after the non-profit employer opts out. The court said:
Plaintiffs' injury is not related to whether the TPA can be penalized for noncompliance with the mandate. Rather, Plaintiffs' injury arises when the provision of contraceptive coverage has been facilitated by their actions and their beliefs have thereby been violated. This constitutes a sufficient injury to satisfy the constitutional minimum of standing.
The court went on to conclude that the requirement for non-profits to execute a certification to opt out of the mandate imposes a substantial burden on their religious exercise. Then, incorporating language from the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby opinion decided earlier the same day on which this court's opinion was filed, the court concluded that the government has shown it has a compelling interest, but  it has not shown that it has used the least restrictive means to accomplish its goal. The court said in part:
Indeed, the Supreme Court has observed that the most straightforward way for the Government to achieve its goal without imposing a substantial burden on the exercise of religion would be to assume the cost of providing contraceptives to any women unable to obtain them under their health insurance policies due to their employers' religious objections. Burwell [v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.], --S.Ct.--, 2014 WL 2921709.
The Archdiocese of St. Louis issued a press release welcoming the decision.