D.C. Circuit Rejects Priests for Life Challenge to Obamacare Contraceptive Mandate


In a decision issued today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled against a legal challenge filed by Priests for Life and several allied Catholic organizations against the religious accommodation provided under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's so-called contraceptive mandate. According to the legal challengers, although religious nonprofits are allowed to opt out of providing contraceptive coverage for their employees by submitting a form to the federal government, the submission of that form still "triggers" insurance providers to offer separate contraceptive coverage to the employees, thereby implicating the employers in practices that violate their religious views.

According to the D.C. Circuit, however, this opt-out procedure does not amount to a "substantial burden" on the religious liberty of these nonprofit organizations:

All Plaintiffs must do to opt out is express what they believe and seek what they want via a letter or two-page form. That bit of paperwork is more straightforward and minimal than many that are staples of nonprofit organizations' compliance with law in the modern administrative state. Religious nonprofits that opt out are excused from playing any role in the provision of contraception services, and they remain free to condemn contraception in the clearest terms.

The D.C. Circuit's opinion in Priests for Life v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is available here.