September 19, 2013 — The Thomas More Society, a conservative legal group, said it will ask the Supreme Court to review a Michigan family's claim that its business should be exempt from the federal contraceptive coverage rules because of its religious beliefs, the Washington Times' "Inside Politics" reports (Howell, "Inside Politics," Washington Times, 9/18).
The contraceptive coverage rules, which are being implemented under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148), require most employers to offer the coverage to their workers. Houses of worship are exempt from the requirement, and religiously affiliated not-for-profits are eligible for an accommodation that ensures they do not have to pay for or directly provide the coverage to their employees. However, private companies are not eligible for an accommodation or exemption.
On Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the Catholic family that owns two Michigan companies -- Autocam and Autocam Medical -- does not have the legal standing to challenge the rules because the "decision to comply with the mandate falls on Autocam, not the [family]."
The judges added that a company "is not a 'person' capable of 'religious exercise' as intended by [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act]" and that granting Autocam an exception would "lead to a significant expansion of the scope of the rights the Free Exercise Clause protected" (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/18).
According to "Inside Politics," about three dozen companies have filed lawsuits over the rules. The companies' owners argue that they cannot choose between violating their religious beliefs and paying the financial penalties for failing to provide contraceptive coverage. Of the three federal appeals courts decisions to date, two courts have backed the Obama administration, while one court granted the company Hobby Lobby a temporary injunction against the rules until the merits of the case are decided.
Legal observers have said the split rulings increase the likelihood that the Supreme Court will take up the issue, "Inside Politics" reports ("Inside Politics," Washington Times, 9/18).