Religious Law

Contraceptive mandate blocked by 7th Circuit

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A federal appeals court based in Chicago has blocked the so-called contraceptive mandate that requires companies to provide contraceptive coverage in group health-care plans for employees.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday on behalf of two closely held companies and their Catholic owners, who claimed the mandate under the Obama administration’s health care law violated their rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The 2-1 decision is the first to issue a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of the measure, report Bloomberg News and the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.). SCOTUSblog calls the decision the broadest so far on the issue by a federal appeals court. How Appealing and the Religion Clause Blog also noted the decision.

The appeals court said both the companies and their owners were protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. RFRA protects “persons,” but does not define the word. The Dictionary Act, which supplies rules of construction, defines the term to include corporations, the court said.

“Individuals and organizations—whether incorporated or not—can exercise religion,” the court said.

One of the businesses, Grote Industries Inc., manufactures vehicle parts. The other, Korte & Luitjohan Contractors Inc., is a general contracting firm.

A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., last week also sided with business owners challenging the mandate, but said the right did not extend to the corporation itself. The court remanded for consideration of an injunction, the Associated Press reported at the time.

Updated at 11:40 a.m. to add the names of the businesses involved in the suits.

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