Federal District Court in DC Grants Preliminary Injunction Against Enforcement of Contraception Mandate

Another victory for plaintiffs challenging the ACA’s Contraception Mandate: on Friday, a federal district court in Washington, D.C., granted a preliminary injunction to Tyndale House, a publishing company that had challenged the mandate under RFRA.

The court ruled that Tyndale House, a small, closely-held firm with a pervasively Christian corporate culture, had standing to bring a RFRA claim on two alternative theories, either as the alter-ego of its owners or as a third-party representative of the primary owner, the Tyndale Foundation. On the merits, Tyndale House had shown its RFRA claim was very likely to succeed. The mandate substantially burdened the firm’s exercise of religion by forcing it to cover contraceptives that violated its religious beliefs or face “enormous” financial penalties. The government, for its part, had failed to show a compelling interest to justify this burden. Although public health and women’s equal access to healthcare were both, broadly speaking, compelling interests, the government had not shown why those interests required this plaintiff to cover the contraceptives in question. The  court stressed that Tyndale House had objected only to certain contraceptives, not all, and that the government had already exempted many other firms from the mandate.The court briefly discussed the “irreparable harm,” “balance of the equities,” and “public interest” tests, and ruled in favor of Tyndale House on each.

So far, there have been four district court decisions on the legality of the mandate as it applies to for-profit companies: three have granted plaintiffs preliminary injunctions, one has not. Friday’s case is Tyndale House Publishers v. Sebelius (D.D.C., Nov. 16, 2012).

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