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Judge Denies Catholic Groups' Request in Contraceptive Coverage Lawsuit

Judge Denies Catholic Groups' Request in Contraceptive Coverage Lawsuit

May 15, 2014 — A federal judge on Tuesday denied a request from a group of Catholic organizations in Wyoming for an injunction to block the federal contraceptive coverage rules, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports (AP/Sacramento Bee, 5/13).

The rules, which are being implemented under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148), require most insurers to offer contraceptive coverage in their employer-sponsored health plans. 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.

The case involves the Roman Catholic Diocese of Cheyenne, Wyo., and several Catholic schools and charities, which argue that the requirements violate the groups' constitutional right to religious freedom. The suit states that religious schools and charities do not meet the government's definition of "religious employers" and would have to provide the coverage (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/15).

Judge's Decision

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl wrote, "The ACA doesn't ... force plaintiffs to offer a health insurance plan with objectionable contraceptive coverage; it forces the third party administrator -- a non-religious third party -- to arrange and offer such coverage." He noted that the Obama administration's requirement that religious groups fill out religious objection certification forms does not place a substantial burden on religious groups' free exercise of their religious beliefs.

The Diocese of Cheyenne issued a statement after Skavdahl's ruling, arguing that it conflicts with other federal courts' rulings. The group said it plans to appeal (AP/Sacramento Bee, 5/13).