Howard Friedman, Religion Clause
In Gilardi v. Sebelius (D DC, March 3, 2013), the D.C. federal district court refused to issue a preliminary injunction to prevent enforcement of the Affordable Care Act contraceptive coverage mandate in a suit by two related for-profit Subchapter S corporations and their Catholic owners. Plaintiffs object on religious grounds to providing coverage for contraception, sterilization and contraceptive methods that act as abotifacients. The court concluded that plaintiffs failed to show a likelihood of success on the merits of their claim under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
The court refused to impute the owners’ religious views onto their corporations, holding that it must evaluate the claims of the owners and the businesses separately. Declining to decide whether a for-profit business could ever exercise religion, the court held that in this case the charitable activities and other actions pointed to by plaintiffs do not establish that these companies exercise religion, so the contraceptive coverage mandate cannot impose a substantial burden on them. Moving to claims by the individual owners, the court held that a substantial burden is not shown merely by plaintiffs claiming that it is such. Here the owners have not shown a substantial burden because they are not required to personally support, endorse or engage in pro-abortion or pro-contraception activity; only the corporations are.