Friday, August 14, 2015

DC Circuit Rejects Establishment Clause Challenge To ACA Religious Conscience Exemption

In Cutler v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, DC Cir., Aug. 14, 2015), the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit rejected an Establishment Clause challenge to the religious conscience exemption in the Affordable Care Act.  The ACA exempts from the individual mandate members of traditional religious groups such as the Amish and Mennonites who are conscientiously opposed to acceptance of health benefits and whose sect makes provision for their dependent members. Plaintiff Jeffrey Cutler objected for personal, not religious, reasons to purchasing insurance that complies with ACA requirements. The court said in part:
The religious exemption in the Affordable Care Act, like its counterpart in the Social Security Act, accommodates religion by exempting all believers whose faith system provides an established, alternative support network that ensures individuals will not later seek to avail themselves of the federal benefits for which they did not contribute. Cutler is correct that the Affordable Care Act withholds a similar exemption for non-believers. But the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that “the government may accommodate religious practices without violating the Establishment Clause....