- Does the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ self-certification requirement for objecting religious non-profits under the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) violate the rights of these non-profits to freely exercise their religion?
- Would the government satisfy the Court’s test for overriding the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”) where it admits that its alternative scheme may not fulfill the regulatory objective of providing contraceptives at no cost to objecting employers?
The Supreme Court will decide whether requiring objecting religious non-profit organizations to sign a waiver allowing employees to receive health coverage, including contraception and abortion-inducing drugs from third parties, violates their rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”). Petitioners, a group of Catholic non-profits (the “Catholic groups”), argue that the requirement forces them to offer health coverage to their employees in a manner inconsistent with the Catholic groups’ faith. The Catholic groups further argue that the requirement has been imposed without proof that the mandated coverage cannot be achieved through alternative means. Sylvia Burwell, the secretary of Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, counter that the objections of these religious organizations are not a cognizable burden under RFRA. Furthermore, their refusing to sign the waiver will frustrate the government’s compelling interest in protecting the health of all women, including female employees of Catholic groups. This decision could expand the religious exemption to the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, and will further define the limits of the First Amendment protections afforded under RFRA.
Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties
1. Does the Government violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”) by forcing objecting religious nonprofit organizations to comply with the HHS contraceptive mandate under an alternative regulatory scheme that requires these organizations to act in violation of their sincerely held religious beliefs?
2. Can the Government satisfy RFRA’s demanding test for overriding sincerely held religious objections in circumstances where the Government itself admits that overriding the religious objection may not fulfill its regulatory objective—namely, the provision of no-cost contraceptives to objectors’ employees?
- Robert Barnes, Supreme Court Accepts Challenge to Health Law’s Contraceptive Mandate, The Washington Post (Nov. 6, 2015).
- Jennifer Haberkorn, Supreme Court to Take Up Challenge to Obamacare’s Contraception Mandate, Politico (Nov. 6, 2015).
- Ian Millhiser, Birth Control is Back Before the Supreme Court. Liberals Could Win This Time., Think Progress (Nov. 9, 2015).