987 F.Supp.2d 232 (E.D.N.Y 2013), 12 Civ. 2542 (BMC), Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York v. Sebelius

Docket Nº:12 Civ. 2542 (BMC)
Citation:987 F.Supp.2d 232
Opinion Judge:Brian M. Cogan, U.S.D.J.
Party Name:THE ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHDIOCESE OF NEW YORK, et al., Plaintiffs, v. KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, in her official capacity as Secretary, United States Department of Health and Human Services, et al., Defendants
Attorney:No. 12 Civ. 2542 (BMC) For Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, Catholic Health Care System, Catholic HealthServices of Long Island, Plaintiffs: Charles Michael Carberry, Patrick J. Smith, Todd R. Geremia, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Julie Rosselot Gorla, Toni-Ann Citera, Jones & Day, New York, NY. For Ca...
Case Date:December 16, 2013
Court:United States District Courts, 2nd Circuit, Eastern District of New York
 
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987 F.Supp.2d 232 (E.D.N.Y 2013)

THE ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHDIOCESE OF NEW YORK, et al., Plaintiffs,

v.

KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, in her official capacity as Secretary, United States Department of Health and Human Services, et al., Defendants

No. 12 Civ. 2542 (BMC)

United States District Court, E.D. New York

December 16, 2013

Decided December 13, 2013

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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For Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, Catholic Health Care System, Catholic HealthServices of Long Island, Plaintiffs: Charles Michael Carberry, Patrick J. Smith, Todd R. Geremia, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Julie Rosselot Gorla, Toni-Ann Citera, Jones & Day, New York, NY.

For Cardinal Spellman High School, Monsignor Farrell High School, Plaintiffs: Todd R. Geremia, Jones Day, New York, NY.

For Kathleen Sebelius, in her official capacity as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Hilda Solis, in her official capacity as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor, Timothy Geithner, in his official capacity as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Treasury, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Department of Treasury, Defendants: Benjamin Berwick, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division, Federal Programs, Washington, DC.

For American Center for Law & Justice, Amicus: Neil Matthew Merkl, LEAD ATTORNEY, Kelley, Drye & Warren, LLP, New York, NY; Cecilia D. Noland-Heil, PRO HAC VICE, American Center for Law and Justice, Washington, DC.

For American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, Amicus: Jennifer Kim Lee, LEAD ATTORNEY, American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, New York, NY.

OPINION

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MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

Brian M. Cogan, U.S.D.J.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the " ACA" ), Pub. L. No. 111-148, 124 Stat. 119 (2010), requires that group health insurance plans cover certain preventative medical services without cost-sharing, such as a copayment or a deductible. Pursuant to regulations subsequently issued, the preventative services that must be covered include contraception, sterilization, and related counseling (the " Coverage Mandate" or " Mandate" ). Certain religious employers, primarily churches, are exempt from this requirement. Further, the Government has recently promulgated regulations that seek to accommodate the religious objections of " eligible organizations," namely religious non-profits. Under this accommodation, " eligible organizations" do not have to pay for a health plan that covers contraceptive services; instead, an eligible organization must provide its issuer or third party administrator (" TPA" ) with a self-certification form stating its objection to the Mandate on religious grounds. The issuer or TPA is then required to provide contraceptive coverage without charging the eligible organization any fees or premiums, and without imposing any cost-sharing on the beneficiary.

Plaintiffs are six New York-area organizations affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church. Plaintiffs state that their Catholic beliefs prohibit them from providing, subsidizing, facilitating, or sponsoring the provision of contraception, sterilization, or abortion-inducing products and services. The Mandate, they argue, requires them to violate these core religious beliefs, regardless of the exemption for religious employers or the accommodation for eligible organizations. Plaintiffs bring claims under the Religious Freedom Restoration

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Act (" RFRA" ) and Administrative Procedures Act, as well as under the Establishment, Free Exercise, and Free Speech clauses of the First Amendment.

Plaintiffs have moved for summary judgment as to all of their claims, seeking a preliminary and permanent injunction against enforcement of the Mandate against them. Defendants have cross-moved for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment on their RFRA claims is granted in part and denied in part, and defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

I. The Plaintiffs

The six plaintiffs are all entities affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church. In their complaint, they allege that the Coverage Mandate forces them to choose between violating the tenets of their religious faith or paying substantial penalties. In particular, if plaintiffs want to avoid the penalties for non-compliance with the Mandate, they must authorize a third party to engage in activity, namely the provision of contraceptives, in which they themselves are religiously forbidden from engaging.

A. The Archdiocese of New York

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York (the " Archdiocese" ) is a non-profit organization that encompasses 370 parishes located in the New York area. It administers numerous charitable and educational programs, which, in line with Catholic teachings, are not aimed solely at Catholics, but are meant to benefit the broader community. The Archdiocese, its parishes, and its institutions employ nearly 10,000 people, almost 8,000 of whom are lay people. The Archdiocese does not know how many of its employees are Catholic.

The Archdiocese operates a self-insured health plan, underwriting its employees' medical costs. Its health plan and pharmaceutical coverage are administered by third parties. The plan year for the Archdiocese's plan begins on January 1. Consistent with Catholic teaching, the plan currently does not cover abortifacients, sterilization, or contraception.1 Including the Archdiocese's affiliated charitable and educational organizations, nearly 9,000 people, both Catholic and non-Catholic, are covered under the Archdiocese's health plan.

B. Cardinal Spellman High School and Monsignor Farrell High School

Cardinal Spellman High School (" Cardinal Spellman" ) and Monsignor Farrell High School (" Monsignor Farrell" ) are two Catholic high schools located in the Bronx and Staten Island, respectively. Monsignor Farrell has 74 employees, and Cardinal Spellman has over 100. These schools both employ and educate individuals of all faiths. Employees at both high schools are currently covered under the Archdiocese's health plan, which, as stated, does not currently provide contraceptive coverage.

C. ArchCare

Catholic Health Care System and its affiliates, the Continuing Care Community of the Archdiocese of New York (collectively, " ArchCare" ), are non-profit organizations

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that provide faith-based health care to the poor and disadvantaged, including elderly and disabled individuals, consistent with Catholic values. ArchCare operates a self-insured health plan for its employees, underwriting the plan while contracting with a TPA for administration of the plan. The plan covers approximately 3,000 people and ArchCare does not know how many of those covered are Catholic. Contraception, abortion, and sterilization are not covered.

D. The Diocese of Rockville Centre

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York (the " Diocese" ) is a non-profit organization that encompasses 134 parishes in Nassau and Suffolk counties. The Diocese is responsible for numerous charitable and educational programs for the benefit of Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Together with its hospitals, schools, parishes and other associated institutions, the Diocese employs nearly 20,000 people.

Employees of both the Diocese and its affiliated charitable and educational organizations receive health care coverage through the Diocese's health plan, which covers over 4,500 people. The Diocese operates a self-insured health plan, administered by a TPA, underwriting its employees' medical costs. The plan does not cover abortifacients, sterilization, or contraception.

E. CHSLI

Catholic Health Services of Long Island (" CHSLI" ) is a non-profit organization that oversees Catholic health care organizations within the Diocese, including six hospitals, three nursing homes, and a hospice service. Neither CHSLI nor its member institutions condition employment or receipt of medical services on being Catholic.

CHSLI operates a self-insured health plan for its employees and employees of its member institutions, underwriting the plan while contracting with third parties for administration of the plan. The plan covers approximately 25,000 people. Like the other plaintiffs, consistent with Catholic teaching, CHSLI's plan does not cover abortifacients, sterilization, or contraception.

II. The Relevant Statutes and Regulations

The Coverage Mandate is the result of a complex history of Congressional legislation and agency rulemaking involving the Department of Labor (" DoL" ), the Department of the Treasury (" DoT" ), and the Department of Health and Human Services (" HHS" ) (collectively, the " Departments" ).

In March 2010, Congress enacted the ACA as well as the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act. These acts established a number of requirements relating to " group health plans," a term which encompasses employer plans that provide health care coverage to employees, regardless of whether the plans are insured or self-insured. See 42 U.S.C. § 300gg-91(a)(1); Interim Final Rules for Group Health Plans and Health Insurance Issuers Relating to Coverage of Preventative Services Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, 75 Fed. Reg. 41,726, 41,727 (July 19, 2010) (" Interim Final Rules" ). As is relevant here, the ACA requires that group health plans provide coverage for a number of preventative medical services at no charge to the patient. § 300gg-13. Specially, the ACA provides that a group health plan must...

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