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Dordt College v. Sebelius

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Western Division

May 21, 2014

DORDT COLLEGE and CORNERSTONE UNIVERSITY, Plaintiffs,
v.
KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, in her official capacity as Secretary, United States Department of Health and Human Services, et al., Defendants

For Dordt College, Cornerstone University, Plaintiffs: Carole D Bos, LEAD ATTORNEY, PRO HAC VICE, Bos & Glazier, PLC, Grand Rapids, MI; Daniel D Dykstra, LEAD ATTORNEY, Heidman Redmond Fredregill Patterson Plaza Dykstra & Prahl, Sioux City, IA; David A Cortman, LEAD ATTORNEY, PRO HAC VICE, Alliance Defending Freedom, Lawrenceville, GA; Matthew Scott Bowman, LEAD ATTORNEY, PRO HAC VICE, Gregory Scott Baylor, LEAD ATTORNEY, Alliance Defending Freedom, Washington, DC; Jeff W Wright, LEAD ATTORNEY, Heidman Law Firm, LLC, Sioux City, IA; Kevin H Theriot, LEAD ATTORNEY, PRO HAC VICE, Alliance Defending Freedom, Leawood, KS.

For Kathleen Sebelius, in her official capacity as Secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, United States Department of the Treasury, United States Department of Labor, United States Department of Health and Human Services, Jack Lew, in his official capacity as Secretary of the United States Department of the Treasury, Thomas Perez, in his official capacity as Secretary of the United States Department of Labor, Defendants: Michael Charles Pollack, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division - Federal Programs Branch, Washington, DC.

For ACLU of Iowa, American Civil Liberties Union, Amicus: Brigitte Amiri, Jennifer Lee, LEAD ATTORNEYS, PRO HAC VICE, American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, New York, NY; Daniel Mach, LEAD ATTORNEY, PRO HAC VICE, American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, Washington, DC; Randall C Wilson, Iowa Civil Liberties Union Foundation, Des Moines, IA.

For Liberty, Life, and Law Foundation, Amicus: Deborah Jane Dewart, LEAD ATTORNEY, PRO HAC VICE, Swansboro, NC; Micah Schreurs, LEAD ATTORNEY, Wolff, Whorley, Dehoogh & Thompson, Sheldon, IA.

OPINION

MARK W. BENNETT, U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.

Page 935

ORDER REGARDING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR A PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION

This case is before me on Plaintiffs Dordt College's (Dordt's) and Cornerstone University's (Cornerstone's) motion for a preliminary injunction, filed on May 6, 2014 (docket no. 44). In their motion, Plaintiffs ask that I enjoin enforcement of " the Mandate" --the provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA) requiring that group health plans and health insurance issuers provide coverage, without cost sharing, for certain female contraceptives. See 42 U.S.C. § 300gg--13(a)(4).[1] Plaintiffs are religiously oriented colleges that must offer their employees ACA-compliant health insurance, or face severe penalties. Plaintiffs claim that the Mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), 42 U.S.C. § § 2000bb to 2000bb--4. Defendants [2] resist Plaintiffs' motion (docket no. 45). For the reasons discussed below, Plaintiffs' motion is granted.

" RFRA . . . provides that the Government cannot impose a law that substantially burdens a person's free exercise of religion unless the Government demonstrates that the law (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest." Harrell v. Donahue, 638 F.3d 975, 983 (8th Cir. 2011) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb--1(b)(1)--(2)) (internal quotation marks omitted). Plaintiffs argue that the Mandate

Page 936

substantially burdens their free exercise of religion by requiring Plaintiffs to offer insurance that facilitates access to contraceptives that Plaintiffs deem religiously objectionable. Plaintiffs also argue that the Mandate is not the least-restrictive means to advance any compelling governmental interest. Thus, Plaintiffs request that I enjoin enforcement of the Mandate as it applies to their employee health-insurance plans.

In support of their claims, Plaintiffs rely on their verified complaint and 26 employee declarations. I may grant a preliminary injunction based on such evidence. See Doe v. S. Iron R-1 Sch. Dist., 498 F.3d 878, 880 (8th Cir. 2007) (affirming a preliminary injunction based on a verified complaint and additional documents); Movie Sys., Inc. v. MAD Minneapolis Audio Distributors, 717 F.2d 427, 432 (8th Cir. 1983) (holding that courts may rely solely on affidavits in granting preliminary injunctions); see also K-2 Ski Co. v. Head Ski Co., 467 F.2d 1087, 1088 (9th Cir. 1972) (" A verified complaint or supporting affidavits may afford the basis for a preliminary injunction[.]" (citations omitted)).

Plaintiffs filed their motion for a preliminary injunction while their underlying suit challenging the Mandate is currently pending before me. In a recent order (docket no. 43), I informed the parties that I would wait to resolve the Plaintiffs' underlying claims until after the United States Supreme Court decided Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., No. 13-354, and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius, No. 13-356, because those decisions will likely impact, and may even resolve, part of this case. But, according to Plaintiffs, the Mandate will take effect against Dordt starting on June 1, 2014--before the Supreme Court will likely decide Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood. Thus, Plaintiffs ask that I enjoin enforcement of the Mandate until I rule on the merits of their underlying claims, which I expect to do shortly ...


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