June 6, 2014 — A federal judge on Wednesday granted a coalition of almost 200 Catholic employers an injunction against the federal contraceptive coverage rules, the AP/Miami Herald reports (Talley, AP/Miami Herald, 6/5).
The rules, which are being implemented under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148), require most for-profit, private businesses 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 coverage to their employees.
The case involves the Catholic Benefits Association, a recently formed coalition of Catholic archdioceses, an insurance company and a nursing home. CBA filed suit against the rules in March in the same federal court that granted Hobby Lobby an injunction against the requirement.
The coalition said that it needed an injunction because signing the form that states its opposition and authorizes a third party to organize and pay for contraceptive coverage would make its members complicit in actions that violate their religious beliefs. CBA also argued that the law's definition of a "religious employer" is too narrow and that the government had provided "countless" other exemptions to the rules (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/13).
Federal Judge David Russell on Wednesday ruled in favor of CBA, saying that the "harm posed to these plaintiffs absent relief is quite tangible -- they will either face severe monetary penalties or be required to violate their religious beliefs."
Russell noted that the coalition follows a Catholic teaching that its members should offer health insurance to their employees. However, its members also believe "in the Catholic teaching that any artificial interference with the creation and nurture of new life is wrong," he said.
Oklahoma City Archbishop Paul Coakley praised the decision, saying in a statement that the government has "already effectively granted exemptions from the mandate to various employers whose plans cover more than 130 million employees," adding that CBA is "simply seeking the same exemption for Catholic employers."
Bradley Humphreys, an attorney for the Department of Justice, declined to comment on the ruling (AP/Miami Herald, 6/5).