Saturday, January 09, 2016

Court Allows RFRA Challenge To ACA Individual Mandate To Proceed

A Missouri federal district court yesterday refused to dismiss for failure to state a claim under RFRA a suit by a state legislator and his wife asserting their religious rights are burdened by the Affordable Care Act's mandate requiring them to purchase health insurance which includes contraceptive coverage.  In Wieland v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, (ED MO, Jan. 8, 2016),  Paul and Teresa Wieland, who are Roman Catholics, assert that paying for or participating in a healthcare plan that includes coverage for contraceptives, or providing such insurance coverage for their three daughters, violates their sincerely-held religious beliefs. (The daughters were 12, 18 and 19 when the suit was brought.) The court, relying on 8th Circuit precedent, said:
it is not the Court’s role to second-guess the reasonableness of a plaintiff’s sincerely-held religious beliefs....
The court concluded that while the government may be able to prove that the religious exercise burden is justified by a compelling governmental interest, that is not something plaintiffs have an obligation to disprove at this stage in order to avoid dismissal.  The court however did dismiss plaintiffs' 1st Amendment free exercise and free speech claims, as well as their substantive due process and Administrative Procedure Act claims. (See prior related posting including link to complaint.)