Case could go to trial after circuit court rejects religious exemption
The University of Notre Dame’s appeal to be exempted from the federal requirement to provide health insurance coverage including contraception may go to trial.
In a two-to-one ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit cleared the way for a trial of the university’s challenge but denied any immediate religious exemption, SCOTUS Blog reported.
The May 19 ruling was in reaction to a Supreme Court order to reconsider an earlier refusal to stop enforcement of the so-called HHS mandate against the University of Notre Dame, according to the report. SCOTUS Blog’s Lyle Denniston wrote:
This marked the first time that a federal appeals court had rejected a claim that the Supreme Court’s ruling last June in the case of
Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores should shield a non-profit religious organization from any role whatsoever in carrying out the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate. The issue seems certain to return to the Justices, probably next Term, although Notre Dame could try to get some temporary relief by returning quickly to the Supreme Court.
The university’s case has yet to go to trial in a federal district court, so the appeals court ruling was limited to denying preliminary protection for the university in the meantime. Still, it was a strong signal that the Roman Catholic institution may have a hard time, at least in lower courts, getting an exemption.
"We are reviewing the opinion and weighing our options," a university spokesman said.
The Obama Administration has offered several modifications to provide for religious exemptions, but Notre Dame and other religious organizations have contended that in order for them to get the exemption they would have to sign a form making them complicit in providing contraception for employees. Notre Dame contends that the "accomodation" actually forces it to “identify and contract with a third party willing to provide the very services Notre Dame deems objectionable.”