After Pennsylvania and New York federal district courts in recent weeks held that the Affordable Care Act contraceptive coverage mandate accommodation for religious non-profits violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, yesterday the D.C. federal district court reached an opposite conclusion, rejecting both RFRA and 1st Amendment challenges to the final regulations. In Priests for Life v. U.S. Department of Heath and Human Services, (D DC, Dec. 19, 2013), the D.C. federal district found that no substantial burden was placed on a pro-life group's free exercise by requiring it to complete the self-certification form to opt into the accommodation for religious non-profits:
during oral argument Plaintiffs conceded that they have no religious objection to the self-certification form, in and of itself. Rather, Plaintiffs’ act under the accommodations becomes burdensome only when it is characterized as “cooperating” with or providing “authorization” for “the government’s illicit goal of increasing access to and utilization of contraceptive services.” ... But no matter how religiously offensive the statutory or regulatory objective may be, the law does not violate RFRA unless it coerces individuals into acting contrary to their religious beliefs.... In this case, it is only the subsequent actions of third parties – the government’s and the issuer’s provision of contraceptive services, in which Priests for Life plays no role – that animate its religious objections.
Staten Island Live reports on the reaction to the decision by Rev. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life:
Injunction or not, we will absolutely not obey, cooperate with, or tolerate in any way this unjust mandate. As Scripture says, we will obey God rather than men.