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Archdiocese of St. Louis v. Burwell

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

June 30, 2014

ARCHDIOCESE OF ST. LOUIS and CATHOLIC CHARITIES OF ST. LOUIS, Plaintiffs,
v.
SYLVIA M. BURWELL [1], in her official capacity as Secretary, United States Department of Health and Human Services, et al., Defendants

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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For Archdiocese of St. Louis, Catholic Charities of St. Louis, Plaintiffs: Brian J. Murray, Carol A. Hogan, Daniel E. Reidy, Dennis Murashko, Mark P. Rotatori, JONES DAY, Chicago, IL.

For Kathleen Sebelius, in her official capacity as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Thomas E. Perez, in his official capacity as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor, Jacob J. Lew, in his official capacity as Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Department of Treasury, Defendants: Michelle R Bennett, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE - CIVIL DIVISION, Federal Program Branch, Washington, DC.

For American Civil Liberties Union, Amicus: Jennifer Lee, LEAD ATTORNEY, Brigitte Amiri, AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION FOUNDATION, New York, NY; Daniel I. Mach, AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION FOUNDATION, Washington, DC.

For American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, Amicus: Anthony E. Rothert, LEAD ATTORNEY, AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION OF MISSOURI FOUNDATION, St. Louis, MO; Jennifer Lee, LEAD ATTORNEY, Brigitte Amiri, AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION FOUNDATION, New York, NY; Daniel I. Mach, AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION FOUNDATION, Washington, DC.

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MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

JOHN A. ROSS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction and Request for Oral Argument.[2]

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(Doc. No. 48) The motion is fully briefed and ready for disposition. On June 13, 2014 and June 26, 2014, Defendants filed Notices of Supplemental Authority related to the pending motion for preliminary injunction. (Doc. Nos. 56, 57)

I. Background

This action is one of many cases filed throughout the United States challenging a provision of the Affordable Care Act (" ACA" )[3] and the regulations issued under it, which mandate that certain employers provide health coverage for contraceptives to their employees, or face fines for failing to do so. The relevant statutory and regulatory background of the AC A has been set out in detail in several recent opinions. See, e.g., Michigan Catholic Conference and Catholic Family Services v. Burwell, 755 F.3d 372, 2014 WL 2596753, at *2-3 (6th Cir. Jun. 11, 2014); The Catholic Benefits Association LCA v. Sebelius, 24 F.Supp.3d 1094, 2014 WL 2522357, at *1-3 (W.D. Okla. June 4, 2014); The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta v. Sebelius, 2014 WL 1256373, at *2-4 (N.D.Ga. Mar. 26, 2014).

Briefly, under the ACA, " employment-based group health plans covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) must provide certain types of preventive health services." Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. v. Sebelius, 723 F.3d 1114, 1122 (10th Cir. 2013), aff'd sub nom. Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., 134 S.Ct. 2751, 189 L.Ed.2d 675, 2014 WL 2921709 (2014) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 300gg-13; 29 U.S.C. § 1185d). The provision of the ACA at issue, herein referred to as the contraceptive mandate, " mandates coverage, without cost-sharing by plan participants or beneficiaries, of 'preventive care and screenings' for women 'as provided for in comprehensive guidelines supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration.'" Id. (citing 42 U.S.C. § 300gg-13(a)(4)). The scope of " preventive care" includes " [a]ll Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods[4], sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity." Health Resources & Services Administration, " Women's Preventive Services Guidelines," www.hrsa.gov/womensguidelines (last visited June 29, 2014).

The mandate exempts " religious employers" from the contraceptive requirement. Hobby Lobby, 723 F.3d at 1123. This exemption is limited, however, and includes only " churches, synagogues, mosques, and other houses of worship, and religious orders." Diocese of Cheyenne v. Sebelius, 21 F.Supp.3d 1215, 2014 WL 1911873, at *2 (D.Wyo. May 13, 2014) (quoting 78 Fed.Reg. 8456, 8461 (Feb. 6, 2013)).

The mandate also includes an " accommodation" for certain non-exempt employers who do not want to provide coverage for the required contraceptive services based on religious objections. See 45 C.F.R. § 147.131(b). Id. A non-exempt

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employer is eligible for this accommodation if it satisfies the following requirements:

(1) it opposes providing coverage for some or all of the required contraceptive services due to religious objections;
(2) it is a nonprofit entity;
(3) it " holds itself out as a religious organization; " and
(4) it " self-certifies, in a form and manner specified by the Secretaries of Health and Human Services and Labor, that it satisfies the [previous three] criteria."

29 C.F.R. § 2590.715-2713A(a)(1)-(4).

To meet this last requirement, self-certification, an employer must provide the self-certification form to its insurance company, or, if the employer has a self-insured health plan (as is the case here), to its third-party administrator (" TPA" ). 26 C.F.R. § 54.9815-2713A(b)-(c); 29 C.F.R. § 2590.715-2713A(b)-(c); 45 C.F.R. § 147.131(c); 78 Fed.Reg. at 39,878-79. The law then requires the TPA to provide or arrange separate payments for contraceptive products and services, without participation, payment, or interference from the eligible organization. 26 C.F.R. § 54.9815-2713A(b)-(d); 29 C.F.R. § 2590.715-2713A(b)-(d); 45 C.F.R. § 147.131(c)-(d); 78 Fed.Reg. at 39,878-80. The TPA is reimbursed for the costs it incurs when it provides such coverage. See 45 C.F.R. 156.50(d)(3)(ii).

If an employer subject to the contraceptive mandate fails to provide the required contraceptive coverage in its health plan, then the employer faces fines of $100 per day per employee, or up to $36,500 per year per employee. 26 U.S.C. § 4980D(b)(1). Further, if the employer fails to provide any health plan whatsoever to its employees, then the employer faces fines of $2,000 per year per full time employee (less 30 employees). 26 U.S.C. § 4980H(a), (c)(1).

Plaintiffs, the Archdiocese of St. Louis (" Archdiocese" ) and Catholic Charities of St. Louis (" Catholic Charities" ), describe themselves as Catholic entities " that provide a wide range of spiritual, educational, and social services to members of the greater St. Louis community, Catholic and non-Catholic alike." (Compl., Doc. No. 1, ¶ 2) Catholic Church teachings uphold the firm conviction that sexual union should be reserved to married couples who are open to the creation of life; thus, artificial interference with the creation of life, including through abortion, sterilization, and contraceptives, is contrary to Catholic doctrine. (Id., ¶ 4) The Archdiocese operates a self-insured health plan that encompasses not only individuals directly employed by the Archdiocese itself, but also individuals employed by affiliated Catholic organizations, including Catholic Charities, (Id., ¶ 12) Consistent with Church teachings, the Archdiocese's plan does not cover abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, or contraceptives. (Id., ¶ 39) The Archdiocese is exempt from the contraceptive mandate as a religious employer. (Id., ¶ 12) Catholic Charities is eligible for the " accommodation" as a nonprofit religious organization that objects to providing coverage for contraceptive services. (Id., ¶ 10)

Plaintiffs have brought this action against the Secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, along with other government officials and agencies (" the Government" ), alleging that the contraceptive mandate violates their rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), 42 U.S.C. § § 2000bb et seq., the First Amendment, and the Administrative Procedure Act. Plaintiffs also allege claims for interference with internal church governance

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and erroneous interpretation of regulations by ...


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