Religious Law

3rd Circuit rules against religious employers who object to contraceptive-coverage opt-out procedure

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Religious employers who objected to the accommodation that lets them refuse to provide contraceptive coverage to their workers have lost their bid for an injunction in a federal appeals court.

The Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed injunctions granted to the religious organizations, two Catholic dioceses and a Christian college, the Legal Intelligencer (reg. req.) reports.

The accommodation allows religious nonprofits to fill out a form indicating they will decline to provide contraceptive coverage required by the Affordable Care Act. The employers’ health plan or a third-party administrator then provides the coverage directly to the employees and may seek payment from the federal government.

The plaintiffs had claimed the opt-out procedure violated their rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act because they are still required to “facilitate” or “trigger” the contraceptive coverage, making them complicit in sin.

The 3rd Circuit disagreed, saying the accommodation “places no substantial burden” on the religious groups.

“First, the self-certification form does not trigger or facilitate the provision of contraceptive coverage because coverage is mandated to be otherwise provided by federal law,” the appeals court said in its opinion (PDF). “Federal law, rather than any involvement by the appellees in filling out or submitting the self-certification form, creates the obligation of the insurance issuers and third-party administrators to provide coverage for contraceptive services. …

“Moreover, the submission of the self-certification form does not make the appellees ‘complicit’ in the provision of contraceptive coverage. If anything, because the appellees specifically state on the self-certification form that they object on religious grounds to providing such coverage, it is a declaration that they will not be complicit in providing coverage.”

See also: “Priests group says it won’t comply with DC Circuit ruling upholding contraceptive opt-out procedure”

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