Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwell, No. 13-1540 (10th Cir. 2015)Annotate this Case
The appeals before the Tenth Circuit in this opinion concerned the regulations (as a part of the Affordable Care Act ("ACA")) that required group health plans to cover contraceptive services for women as a form of preventive care ("Mandate"). In response to religious concerns, the Departments implementing the ACA (Health and Human Services ("HHS"), Labor, and Treasury) adopted a regulation that exempted religious employers (churches and their integrated auxiliaries) from covering contraceptives. When religious non-profit organizations complained about their omission from this exemption, the Departments adopted a regulation that allowed them to opt out of providing, paying for, or facilitating contraceptive coverage. Under this regulation, a religious non-profit organization could opt out by delivering a form to their group health plan’s health insurance issuer or third-party administrator or by sending a notification to HHS. The Plaintiffs in the cases here were religious non-profit organizations. They argued that complying with the Mandate or the accommodation scheme imposed a substantial burden on their religious exercise. The Plaintiffs argued the Mandate and the accommodation scheme violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”) and the Religion and Speech Clauses of the First Amendment. While Tenth Circuit recognized the sincerity of Plaintiffs’ beliefs and arguments, it concluded the accommodation scheme relieved Plaintiffs of their obligations under the Mandate and did not substantially burden their religious exercise under RFRA or infringe upon their First Amendment rights. The Court affirmed the district court’s denial of a preliminary injunction to the plaintiffs in Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged v. Sebelius, (6 F.Supp. 3d 1225 (D. Colo. 2013)), and reversed the district courts’ grants of a preliminary injunction to the plaintiffs in "Southern Nazarene University v. Sebelius," (No. CIV-13-1015-F, 2013 WL 6804265 (W.D. Okla. Dec. 23, 2013)), and "Reaching Souls International, Inc. v. Burwell," (No. CIV-13-1092-D, 2013 WL 6804259 (W.D. Okla. Dec. 20, 2013)).
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on September 3, 2015.