AMICUS BRIEF (Case No. 3:13-cv-01303 District Judge Todd J. Campbell Magistrate Judge E. Clifton Knowles)

Appealed to Sixth Circuit (Mich. Catholic Conf. et al. v. Burwell et al, Nos. 13-2723/6640, MOORE and ROGERS, Circuit Judges; NIXON, District Judge)

ACLU Attorneys: Thomas H. Castelli, ACLU of Tennessee; Jennifer Lee and Brigitte Amiri, ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project; Daniel Mach, ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief

Plaintiffs: The Catholic Diocese of Nashville, et al.

Defendants: Kathleen Sebelius, in her official capacity as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, et al.

As part of the Affordable Care Act, the federal government issued a rule that requires health plans to cover contraception without a co-pay. The rule accommodates nonprofit entities with religious objections to contraception by ensuring that they will not bear the cost or otherwise have any connection with the coverage.

The rule requires that such organizations send a two-page form to their health insurance issuer stating that they have religious objections to covering contraceptives. Upon receipt, the onus is shifted to the insurer to provide contraceptive coverage to an employee.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Nashville and other religious nonprofits challenged implementation of this rule, stating that it violates their religious liberty.

On December 12, 2013, ACLU-TN joined with ACLU and filed an amicus brief in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee supporting the government’s position on the contraceptive mandate under the Affordable Care Act.

ACLU’s brief argued that the contraception rule does not substantially burden religious exercise, as it only requires non-profit employers to send a two-page form to their insurance carriers articulating their religious objection to covering contraceptives. They are not required to pay for such coverage or to otherwise modify their behavior.

In addition, the brief asserted, the ability to control whether and when to have children has enabled women to achieve greater academic, professional and economic success. Because health insurance coverage of contraception is an important step toward promoting women’s equality, denying such coverage amounts to disadvantaging and discriminating against female employees.

The trial court’s decision supported ACLU’s position.

Over one hundred cases have been filed challenging the federal contraceptive coverage rule as an infringement on religious liberty. These cases have been brought by both for-profit and nonprofit companies. In these cases, the ACLU is defending the anti-discrimination rule. While religious freedom gives us all the right to our beliefs, it doesn't give institutions or individuals the right to impose their beliefs on others or to discriminate.

More information can be found here.

Related Documents

Press Releases

ACLU Files Brief Supporting Contraceptive Coverage Rule (December 13, 2013)

Legal Documents

Catholic Diocese of Nashville v. Sebelius - Amicus Brief (December 12, 2013)