A federal appeals court in Washington has rejected a challenge to Obamacare regulations that allow religious nonprofits to opt out of providing birth control coverage.
The Catholic Archbishop of Washington and nonprofits affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church challenged the regulations, contending they do not go far enough.
The regulations at issue were adopted by the Obama administration to accommodate religious nonprofits that object to including birth control in their health insurance plans.
Purely religious organizations are automatically exempt from the birth control mandate. But religious nonprofits — including universities, hospitals, social service organizations and charities — are not because many of their employees, and students, do not subscribe to the same religious beliefs. To deal with that dilemma, the regulations allow religious nonprofits to opt out of birth control coverage by certifying their objections to their insurers with a letter or single-page form. That allows the insurance companies to offer such coverage independently to employees and students who want the coverage.
Those challenging the regulations contend that the simple act of opting out burdens their faith by activating substitute coverage. The court rejected that claim, calling it “extraordinary and potentially far reaching.”
The decision is the first since the U.S. Supreme Court last June ruled that some for-profit companies may, like religious nonprofits, opt out of providing birth control coverage in their insurance plans. In the cases that have followed, various religious nonprofits have maintained, as they did in the Washington case, that the opt-out provision itself is a “substantial burden” on religion, and thus, that it violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a federal law enacted to enhance religious rights.
In rejecting that claim, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said that “Religious objectors do not suffer substantial burdens … where
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