Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Geneva College v. Sebelius

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

March 6, 2013

GENEVA COLLEGE; WAYNE L. HEPLER; THE SENECA HARDWOOD LUMBER COMPANY, INC., a Pennsylvania Corporation; WLH ENTERPRISES, a Pennsylvania Sole Proprietorship of Wayne L. Hepler; and CARRIE E. KOLESAR, Plaintiff,
v.
KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, in her official capacity as Secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, HILDA SOLIS, in her official capacity as Secretary of the United States Department of Labor, TIMOTHY GEITHNER, in his official capacity as Secretary of the United States Department of the Treasury, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY

Page 403

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 404

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 405

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 406

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 407

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 408

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 409

For GENEVA COLLEGE, Plaintiff: Bradley S. Tupi, LEAD ATTORNEY, Tucker Arensberg, Pittsburgh, PA; David A. Cortman, LEAD ATTORNEY, Alliance Defending Freedom, Lawrenceville, GA; Erik W. Stanley, LEAD ATTORNE, Kevin H. Theriot, Alliance Defending Freedom, Leawood, KS; Gregory S. Baylor, Steven H. Aden, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Matthew S Bowman, Alliance Defending Freedom, Washington, DC; David J. Mongillo, Tucker Arensberg, P.C., Pittsburgh, PA.

For WAYNE HEPLER, THE SENECA HARDWOOD LUMBER COMPANY, INC., a Pennsylvania Corporation, WLH ENTERPRISES, a Pennsylvania Sole Proprietorship of Wayne L. Hepler, CARRIE E. KOLESAR, Plaintiffs: Matthew S Bowman, Gregory S. Baylor, Alliance Defending Freedom, Washington, DC.

For KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, in her official capacity as Secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, HILDA SOLIS, in her official capacity as Secretary of the United States Department of Labor, TIMOTHY GEITHNER, in his official capacity as Secretary of the United States Department of the Treasury, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY, Defendants: Bradley P. Humphreys, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. Department of Justice, Civil, Division, Federal Programs, Washington, DC; Eric R. Womack, United States Department of Justice, Washington, DC; Michael A. Comber, United States Attorney's Office (PGH), Pittsburgh, PA.

For AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION OF PENNSYLVANIA, American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, Amicus: Witold J. Walczak, LEAD ATTORNEY, ACLF of PA, Pittsburgh, PA; Brigitte Amiri, PRO HAC VICE, American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, New York, NY.

OPINION

Joy Flowers Conti, United States District Judge.

Page 410

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Presently before the court is the Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint (ECF No. 39) and brief in support (ECF No. 40) filed by defendants Kathleen Sebelius,

Page 411

Hilda Solis, Timothy Geithner, the United States Department of Health and Human Services (" HHS" ), the United States Department of Labor, and the United States Department of the Treasury (collectively, " defendants" ); the Response in Opposition (ECF No. 51) filed by plaintiffs Geneva College (" Geneva" ), Wayne L. Hepler (" Hepler" ), The Seneca Hardwood Lumber Company, Inc. (" SHLC" ), WLH Enterprises (" WLH" ), and Carrie E. Kolesar (" Kolesar" and together with Geneva, Hepler, SHLC, and WLH, collectively " plaintiffs" ); and defendants' reply (ECF No. 54.) Subsequent to the filing of defendants' motion, the court held a hearing on October 31, 2012, at which time the court heard argument and ordered the parties to submit supplemental briefing. (ECF Nos. 55 and 58.) The parties have kept the court well informed of recent decisions by other district courts and courts of appeals in similar cases around the country. The matter is now ripe for disposition, and for the reasons that follow, defendants' motion will be GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

The present case is one of dozens of similar lawsuits currently pending in district courts and courts of appeals throughout the country. In each case, individuals and entities, both for-profit and nonprofit, are challenging the provision of the new federal health care law requiring health insurance plans to provide coverage for certain services, which defendants assert are appropriate for women's preventive care. Plaintiffs in this case, as discussed more fully below, are a private, nonprofit college, two for-profit entities, and individual owners of those entities. Plaintiffs object on religious grounds to being required to include coverage in their health plans for contraceptives such as ella and Plan B, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for women of reproductive capacity (the " objected to services" ).

I. FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS DERIVED FROM THE AMENDED COMPLAINT WHICH MUST BE TAKEN AS TRUE FOR THE PURPOSE OF RESOLVING THE MOTION TO DISMISS

A. Geneva

Geneva is a nonprofit institution of higher learning established in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania in 1848 by the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (" RPCNA" ). (ECF No. 32 ¶ ¶ 11, 25.) Geneva's mission is " to glorify God by educating and ministering to a diverse community of students in order to develop servant-leaders who will transform society for the kingdom of Christ." (Id. ¶ 25.) This mission is central to Geneva's institutional identity and activities. (Id. ¶ ¶ 27-29.) Geneva offers a traditional liberal arts and sciences curriculum as well as student programs and services that are rooted in the Christian faith. (Id. ¶ 26.) Pursuant to its mission and goals, Geneva has historically promoted a diverse student population and has opposed institutions (such as slavery) that it finds inimical to its beliefs. (Id. ¶ ¶ 34-35.)

Geneva is governed by a board of corporators and a board of trustees. (Id. ¶ ¶ 30-31.) Members of the board of corporators must be members of the RPCNA and members of the board of trustees must be members of either the RPCNA or some other Reformed or Evangelical Christian congregation. (Id. ¶ 30-31.) Geneva's faculty, staff and administration are drawn from among those who profess faith in Christ and who otherwise agree with the college's Christian convictions. (Id. at ¶ 32.) Geneva does not require its students to profess a particular faith, but it does give enrollment priority to evangelical Christians and requires all students to live by standards of Christian morality. (Id. at ¶ 33.)

Page 412

Geneva and the RPCNA firmly believe " that the procurement, participation in, facilitation of, or payment for abortion [including the use of whet it alleges are abortion-causing drugs like Plan B and ella] violates the Commandment against murder." (Id. ¶ 43.) Geneva identifies several texts, including the Ten Commandments, Scripture, the articulated statements of the RPCNA, and the Westminster Larger Catechism in support of its view that human life begins at the moment of fertilization, and that any destruction of a human life thereafter constitutes murder. (Id. ¶ ¶ 38-44.) Geneva's Student Handbook expressly provides that abortion " 'will not be tolerated.'" (Id. ¶ 49.) In furtherance of its views on abortion, Geneva's students and staff participate in a host of pro-life activities both on and off campus. (Id. ¶ ¶ 45-48.)

Geneva provides health insurance to its employees and makes health insurance available to its students. (Id. ¶ 51.) Geneva's student health plan does not enjoy " grandfathered status" [1] and its current plan year began on August 1, 2012. (Id. ¶ ¶ 73-74.) With respect to its employee health plan, Geneva's contract for coverage explicitly excludes " 'drugs used to abort a pregnancy.'" (Id. ¶ 50.) At the time suit was filed, Geneva's employee group health insurance plan was in its 2012 plan year, which began January 1, 2012 and concluded December 31, 2012. (Id. ¶ ¶ 52-53.) Geneva alleges that its current employee health plan remained grandfathered through the end of the 2012 plan year, but fears that it will not remain so in forthcoming years based upon financial pressures stemming from increased costs and decreased student enrollment. (Id. ¶ ¶ 54-57.) [2]

Geneva also fears that its employee health insurance plan could lose grandfathered status when its insurer attempts to enforce the provision excluding " '[a]ny drugs used to abort a pregnancy.'" (Id. ¶ 58.) This concern arose when Geneva learned that its employee health plan allegedly provided ulipristal (" ella" ), levonorgestral (" Plan B" ), and intrauterine devices (" IUDs" ) in the past without its knowledge. (Id.) Geneva instructed its insurer to stop providing these items on the grounds that they " can abort the pregnancy of an embryo after fertilization." (Id.) The insurer allegedly indicated that it would remove the coverage at some point during the 2012 calendar and plan year. (Id.) Geneva alleges that the rules promulgated by defendants (as explained in detail below) make it difficult to determine whether any changes to its employee health plan with respect to ella, Plan B, and IUDs will cause it to lose its grandfathered status. (Id. ¶ ¶ 59-63.) Geneva alleges, therefore, that the elimination of ella, Plan B, and IUDs from its health plan coverage will result in a loss of grandfathered status. (Id. ¶ ¶ 64-68.) [3]

Page 413

B. The Heplers and SHLC

Hepler and his family (which includes Kolesar) (collectively the " Heplers" ), are practicing Catholics who strive to follow Catholic beliefs and teachings in all areas of their lives, including the operation of their businesses. (Id. ¶ ¶ 75-77.) The Heplers have pursued this goal by building a chapel on their business premises, displaying religious imagery in their business, making charitable donations to Catholic causes, and providing health insurance to their families and Catholic employees consistent with their beliefs. (Id. ¶ ¶ 82-85.) The Heplers participate extensively in both Catholic and pro-life activities. (Id. ¶ ¶ 86-88.) Hepler and his thirteen children allege that they are committed to the Catholic church's teachings on human life and sexuality, including the church's position against abortifacients, contraceptives, and sterilization. (Id. ¶ 88.)

SHLC is owned and directed by Hepler, Kolesar, and six of Kolesar's adult siblings. (Id. ¶ 89.) Hepler owns a 58% share of SHLC and Kolesar and her six adult siblings each own a 6% share. (Id.) SHLC has twenty-two full-time employees, nineteen of whom (including Hepler and Kolesar's husband) are covered by the company's health insurance plan. (Id. ¶ 90.) Hepler also owns and operates a sawmill as the sole proprietorship WLH, which has six full-time employees, five of whom are covered under SHLC's health insurance plan. (Id. ¶ 91.)

Like Geneva, the Heplers allege that their sincerely held religious beliefs prohibit them from intentionally participating in, paying for, facilitating, or otherwise supporting the use of abortifacient drugs, contraception, sterilization, and related education and counseling through the health insurance coverage that SHLC provides their families and employees. (Id. ¶ ¶ 77-82.) The SHLC health insurance plan is currently in its July 2012 plan year, and will begin its next plan year on July 1, 2013. (Id. ¶ 98.) Plaintiffs allege that SHLC's health insurance plan does not have grandfathered status. (Id. ¶ 97.) Pursuant to the Heplers' stated beliefs, SHLC's health insurance plan currently does not cover abortifacients, contraceptives and sterilization, and has not done so for several years. (Id. ¶ ¶ 94-99.) Hepler, Kolesar, SHLC and WLH allege that ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.