Thursday, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a challenge to the Affordable Care Act requirement that employers offer their employees health care coverage that includes Plan B, ella, and other potentially life-ending drugs and devices—or fill out a form notifying the Department of Health and Human Services of their religious objection to providing such coverage.
The Obama administration considers this second option as accommodating the employer’s religious beliefs because the notification initiates the process of insurers and third-party administrators providing the mandated coverage at no cost to the insured.
CNS International Ministries, a nonprofit that serves people with substance abuse and behavioral issues, and Heartland Christian College, which provides education to individuals in CNS’ recovery program, argue that this so-called accommodation violates the federal law that prohibits the government from substantially burdening the free exercise of religion. They maintain that the accommodation imposes such a substantial burden by triggering morally objectionable health care coverage, so they are not insulated from complicity in the facilitation of these drugs and devices.
A three-judge panel of the Eighth Circuit agreed—becoming the first appeals court to rule in favor of religious freedom in the many cases against this regulation.