Tuesday, June 23, 2015

5th Circuit Rejects RFRA Challenge To Contraceptive Mandate Accommodation For Religious Non-Profits

In East Texas Baptist University v. Burwell, (5th Cir., June 22,2015), the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Obama administration's rules that allow religious non-profits to opt out of the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive coverage mandate by certifying their religious opposition and either notifying their insurer or plan administrator of their opposition, or furnishing the Department of Health and Human Services with the name and contact information for their insurer or administrator.  In either case, the insurer or administrator must then offer coverage directly.  Plaintiffs argued that this accommodation still violates their religious freedom rights under RFRA.  The court disagreed, saying in part:
Although the plaintiffs have identified several acts that offend their religious beliefs, the acts they are required to perform do not include providing or facilitating access to contraceptives. Instead, the acts that violate their faith are those of third parties. Because RFRA confers no right to challenge the independent conduct of third parties, we join our sister circuits in concluding that the plaintiffs have not shown a substantial burden on their religious exercise.
Slate reports on the decision.