Late last Friday (November 6), the U.S. Supreme Court granted the American Freedom Law Center’s (AFLC) petition for writ of certiorari, agreeing to review AFLC’s challenge to the HHS “contraceptive services” mandate brought on behalf of Priests for Life and several of its executives, including Father Frank Pavone, the national director.
On June 9, 2015, AFLC filed its petition with the Supreme Court. In the petition, AFLC argued that the contraceptive services mandate of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) requires Priests for Life, a non-exempt religious employer, and its directors to affirmatively authorize and facilitate coverage for contraception, sterilization, abortifacients, and related education and counseling for the participants and beneficiaries of Priests for Life’s healthcare plan in direct violation of their sincerely held religious beliefs.
The question presented to the Court is whether the contraceptive services mandate of the Affordable Care Act as applied to non-exempt, nonprofit religious organizations violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).
As set forth in the petition, the government mandate directly forces petitioners Priests for Life and its executives to provide the means and mechanism by which contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients (and related education and counseling) are provided to Priests for Life’s healthcare plan participants and beneficiaries, which is unacceptable because it compels the petitioners to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs in violation of RFRA.
AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel Robert J. Muise commented:
“Our clients’ sincerely held religious beliefs prohibit them from cooperating with the government’s pro-contraception scheme. These religious beliefs are neither trivial nor immaterial, but rather central to the teaching and core moral admonition of the Catholic faith, which requires our clients to avoid mortal sin and scandal. It is beyond the competence and function of government, which includes the courts. to say otherwise, and it violates the law to force our clients to surrender their religious beliefs in order to promote the Obama administration’s anti-life agenda.”
David Yerushalmi, AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel, added,
“It is evident that the Obama administration has little regard for the religious beliefs of Catholic organizations like Priests for Life and even less regard for our Constitution and the rule of law. Consequently, it was imperative that the Supreme Court grant review of this case in order to halt this administration’s assault on our Constitution and the freedoms it guarantees all American citizens. Indeed, as an Orthodox Jew, I stand shoulder to shoulder with our Catholic clients in this important defense of religious freedom.”
In addition to the Priests for Life case, the Court also granted review in six other cases challenging the HHS mandate on behalf of religious organizations. The cases have been consolidated. Argument is expected next March with a decision to be rendered by June.