Supreme Court Update: Solicitor General Responds to Contraception Mandate Challenge; AFLC Files Reply Brief

Last Friday, the American Freedom Law Center (AFLC) filed its reply to the Solicitor General’s response to AFLC’s “Petition for Writ of Certiorari” in the U.S. Supreme Court, which requests that the Court grant review of its case challenging the Obamacare contraception mandate.

AFLC is representing Priests for Life, a nonprofit, Catholic organization; Father Frank Pavone, the National Director of Priests for Life; Dr. Alveda King, the niece of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Pastoral Associate and Director of African-American Outreach for Priests for Life; and Janet Morana, the Executive Director of Priests for Life.

The mandate forces certain non-exempt religious employers – including Priests for Life – to authorize coverage for contraception, abortion-inducing drugs, and sterilization services to the participants and beneficiaries of their healthcare plans.  AFLC contends that the mandate is a violation of the constitutional right to religious freedom and of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

On December 19, a federal judge upheld the government’s enforcement of the contraception mandate as applied against Priests for Life.  AFLC filed an immediate appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and subsequently filed an emergency motion asking the court to halt the mandate pending appeal.  On December 31, a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit granted the injunction.

While the appeal proceeds in the D.C. Circuit, AFLC is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case pursuant to a special Supreme Court rule, which allows review of a case pending in a U.S. appellate court before judgment is entered in that court if “the case is of such imperative public importance as to justify deviation from normal appellate practice and to require immediate determination in this Court.”

AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel Robert J. Muise commented:

“The Obama administration has declared war on the Constitution, and in particular, it has declared war on religious freedom.  AFLC is asking the Supreme Court to grant immediate review of this case in order to stop Obama’s frontal assault on this fundamental liberty founded in our Judeo-Christian traditions.”

The petition for review, which was filed on January 23, 2014, asks the Court to decide whether the challenged mandate as applied against non-exempt, nonprofit religious employers violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  Specifically, AFLC argues that the Court should grant review of the case because it is “imperative” that the Court immediately resolve the important liberty issues at stake for nonprofit religious employers that are subject to the mandate.

AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel David Yerushalmi commented:

“America was founded on religious freedom.  And as an orthodox Jew who objects to this mandate on religious and constitutional grounds, I can say with confidence that observant Jews are as opposed to Obama’s assault on our first freedom as are those in the Christian communities across the country.  In this critical battle, we all stand as one.”

AFLC’s lawsuit was filed against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and its Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius; the U.S. Department of the Treasury and its Secretary, Jacob Lew; and the U.S. Department of Labor and its Secretary, Thomas Perez.  Each department has a role in enforcing the challenged mandate.