Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Administrative Law
  • Date Filed: January 17, 2020
  • Case #: 19-431
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: 930 F.3d 543 (3rd Cir. 2019)

Whether the agencies had statutory authority under the ACA and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, 42 U.S.C. 2000bb et seq., to expand the conscience exemption to the contraceptive-coverage mandate.

Federal courts have considered whether forcing religious objectors to provide health plans including contraceptive coverage is a violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. (RFRA) since 2011. In Zubik v. Burwell, 135 S. Ct. 2924 (2015), the Court promulgated a rule mandating a broad exemption. This was met with further challenges that the RFRA does not even allow such an exemption. In 2013 federal agencies issued a final rule regarding religious employers which developed a three-tiered system establishing (1) a full exemption for churches and some religious order, (2) an accommodation of sorts for certain non-profit religious employers and (3) zero exemptions for any for-profit religious employers. A religious employer who was not exempt could comply if it provided a copy of its self-certification form to its third-party administrators with which it contracted or its plan contracted with. Implementation of this regulatory mechanism has led to increasing litigation. The district court granted a nationwide preliminary injunction against the rule. Petitioners appealed. The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the injunction, stating there was no basis on which to promulgate it but also held that petitioners lacked standing because of a prior injunction protecting them in the Colorado Supreme Court. Petitioners argue that the litigation surrounding the contraceptive mandate and the RFRA will not end unless and until this Court provides definitive guidance on the RFRA question.


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