Bench Memos

Another Victory Against HHS Mandate “Accommodation”

In a carefully reasoned opinion issued today, federal district judge Brian M. Cogan of the Eastern District of New York ruled that various Catholic nonprofit institutions that were the supposed beneficiaries of the Obama administration’s phony accommodation on the HHS contraception mandate are entitled to permanent injunctive relief against enforcement of the HHS mandate. (The case is styled Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York v. Sebelius.)

This is the second merits ruling holding that the accommodation doesn’t satisfy the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. No court, so far as I’m aware, has ruled the other way.

As I noted a few weeks ago in discussing the first such ruling, the initial wave of merits rulings on the HHS mandate came in cases brought by owners of closely held, for-profit companies—the class of plaintiffs that the Obama administration thought undeserving of any religious-liberty protections from the mandate. These new losses in cases involving religious nonprofits and the accommodation rule signal that more legal problems for the HHS mandate—and thus for Obamacare generally—may be arriving.

The plaintiffs in this case are two Catholic archdioceses (New York and Rockville Centre) and several other Catholic institutions: Cardinal Spellman High School, Monsignor Farrell High School, Catholic Health Care System and its affiliates (evidently known as ArchCare), and Catholic Health Services of Long Island. Because the archdioceses are entirely exempt from the mandate, Judge Cogan denied those entities injunctive relief. But he granted permanent injunctive relief to the other plaintiffs.

Addendum: A reader reminds me that another nonprofit religious institution, Geneva College of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, obtained preliminary injunctive relief against the HHS mandate back in June. (That was before the accommodation rule was finalized, but the judge took into account the proposed rule.) So that makes nonprofit plaintiffs subject to the accommodation three for three on their challenges to the HHS mandate.

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