October 18, 2013 — The CEO of a Michigan-based business on Tuesday filed a petition with the Supreme Court requesting that it review the company's case challenging the federal contraceptive coverage rules and overturn a lower court's ruling, Legal Newsline reports (Karmasek, Legal Newsline, 10/16).
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. Private companies are not eligible for an exemption or accommodation (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/15).
Several other companies are involved in lawsuits challenging the contraceptive coverage rules, and the Supreme Court is expected to decide soon whether it will hear a case. It is likely that the high court will take up the issue because federal appeals courts are divided in their rulings and both sides want the justices to weigh in (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/7).
Autocam CEO John Kennedy and his family argued that the rules force them to choose between their Catholic beliefs and substantial financial penalties for not complying with the mandate. The Kennedys own a controlling interest in two Michigan manufacturing companies -- Autocam and Autocam Medical -- that employ about 661 workers in the U.S.
A three-judge panel from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Kennedys could not challenge the contraceptive coverage rules because the "decision to comply with the mandate falls on Autocam, not the Kennedys." The judges said this distinction means that the "Kennedys cannot bring their claims in their individual capacities under the [Religious Freedom Restoration Act (PL 103-141)], nor can Autocam assert the Kennedys' claims on their behalf" (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/18).
In a statement on Tuesday, Kennedy said that the "mandate is forcing me and my family to choose between our religion, losing our family business or stripping our employees of benefits they need." He added that the lower court "said our faith has nothing to do with running the business. But our faith is why we work very hard to treat our employees well."
Patrick Gillen, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, added, "The bottom line of the Sixth Circuit's opinion is that religious liberty means nothing more than a right to pray within the four walls of a church" (Legal Newsline, 10/16).