WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court on Friday rejected a challenge to Obamacare that would have enabled non-profit religious organizations to avoid government-approved contraception programs.
In a 3-0 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit concluded that the challenged regulations do not impose a substantial burden on religious groups.
The Affordable Care Act requires group health plans to include coverage for Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods. In recognition of religious concerns, the government devised an accommodation that non-profit religious organizations nonetheless oppose.
To be eligible for the accommodation, a religious organization must certify to its insurance company that it opposes coverage for contraceptive services and that it operates as a non-profit religious organization.
The religious groups say the notice to insurance companies in requesting the accommodation is a trigger that will result in the government hijacking their health plans and using them as conduits for providing contraceptive coverage to their employees and students.
The appeals court said that all the religious groups must do to opt out is "express what they believe and seek what they want" via a letter or two-page form.
"That bit of paperwork is more straight-forward and minimal than many that are staples of nonprofit organizations' compliance with law in the modern administrative state," wrote appeals judge Cornelia Pillard, an appointee of President Barack Obama.
"Religious nonprofits that opt out are excused from playing any role in the provision of contraceptive services, and they remain free to condemn contraception in the clearest terms," she added.