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Geneva College v. Sebelius

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

June 18, 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

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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 ATTORNEY, 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. Helper, 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

Page 590

FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

Joy Flowers Conti, United States District Judge.

Pending before the court is a Motion for Preliminary Injunction (ECF No. 87), and brief in support, (ECF No. 88), filed by plaintiff Geneva College (" Geneva" ), and the response in opposition, (ECF No. 89), filed by defendants Kathleen Sebelius, 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" ).

Geneva seeks an order protecting it from complying with the requirement that it include coverage for certain services as part of the health insurance that it provides to its students in the plan year beginning on August 1, 2013. Geneva objects to the requirement in the new health care law mandating that it provide insurance coverage for abortifacient products and contraceptives such as ella, Plan B, and intrauterine devices (" IUDs" ) (collectively, the " objected to services" ). For purposes of the present motion, Geneva argues that the law requiring it to provide insurance coverage for the objected to services, 42 U.S.C. § 300gg-13(a)(4) (referred to generally as the " mandate" ), violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb-1 (the " RFRA" ).

On March 6, 2013, the court issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order (ECF No. 74), granting in part and denying in part defendants' motion to dismiss the first amended complaint (ECF No. 32) filed by Geneva and plaintiffs Wayne L. Hepler, Carrie E. Kolesar, WLH Enterprises, and The Seneca Hardwood Lumber Company, Inc. (collectively, the " Hepler plaintiffs" ). The court granted the motion to dismiss with respect to Geneva by finding that it lacked standing to challenge the mandate. The court denied the motion to dismiss with respect to the Hepler plaintiffs' claims pursuant to the RFRA and the Free Exercise Clause. Following entry of the court's

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Memorandum Opinion and Order, the Hepler plaintiffs filed a motion for a preliminary injunction. (ECF No. 75.) The court entered findings of fact and conclusions of law, (ECF No. 83), as well as an order preliminarily enjoining defendants from enforcing the mandate against the Hepler plaintiffs in part because the Hepler plaintiffs established a likelihood of success on the merits with respect to their RFRA claim. (ECF No. 84.)

Geneva filed a motion for reconsideration (ECF No. 81) on April 5, 2013, arguing that its claims are ripe for review because the proposed rules (discussed below) do not alleviate its religious exercise concerns and because of concerns that Geneva would be forced to contract for its student health insurance plan before defendants' final rules were implemented. The court granted Geneva's motion for reconsideration (ECF No. 86), and held that Geneva did have standing to challenge the mandate, and that its claims are ripe for review. The court also denied defendants' motion to dismiss with respect to, among other claims, Geneva's RFRA claim.

Like the Hepler plaintiffs, Geneva advised the court that it does not desire an evidentiary hearing or oral argument on its motion and intends to proceed on the record and briefing that is presently before the court, and defendants did not object to so proceeding. (ECF No. 87 at 2.) Geneva indicated that the court must rule on its motion no later than June 20, 2013, so that it may continue to contract for its student health insurance plan for the 2013-14 plan year. To that end, the matter is ripe for disposition, and the court makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of law.

I. FINDINGS OF FACT[1]

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

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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.)

Geneva and the RPCNA firmly believe " that the procurement, participation in, facilitation of, or payment for abortion [including the use of what 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 coverage to its employees and makes health insurance coverage available to its students. (Id. ¶ 51.) Geneva's student health plan does not enjoy " grandfathered status" [2] and its current plan year began on August 1, 2012. (Id. ¶ ¶ 73-74.)

If the court grants Geneva's motion, then Geneva will contract for a student health insurance plan for the 2013-2014 school year, which begins on August 1, 2013. (ECF No. 88-1 ¶ 6.) If the court denies Geneva's motion or does not rule until after June 20, 2013, then Geneva will not contract for a student health insurance plan for the 2013-2014 school year. (Id. ¶ 7.) If the court grants Geneva's motion, then Geneva's student health plan insurer (United HealthCare) and insurance broker (First Risk Advisors) will provide Geneva with a student plan that excludes the abortifacients to which it objects. (Id. ¶ ¶ 5, 9.) Many of Geneva's students rely upon the school to provide a comparatively affordable health plan, and returning students expect that Geneva will once again make health insurance available to them for the 2013-2014 school year. (Id. ¶ 10.)

Geneva deems it sinful and immoral to facilitate a student health insurance plan that includes coverage for abortifacients and participation in such a plan that entitles students to access insurance coverage of abortifacients. (Id. ¶ 8.)

On approximately June 30, 2013, Geneva will send out invoices to students and their families for the fall 2013 semester and it must know at that time whether to bill students for health insurance. (Id. ¶ ¶ 3-4.) Geneva must notify its insurance broker and plan issuer no later than June 20, 2013 of its intent to enter into an agreement regarding a student health plan for the 2013-2014 school year. (Id. ¶ 5.)

Geneva currently requires that all full-time undergraduate students carry health insurance, and if they do not provide Geneva with proof of such insurance, they are enrolled in Geneva's student health insurance

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plan. (ECF No. 32 ¶ 70.) If Geneva is unable, for reasons of conscience, to facilitate a student health insurance plan for the 2013-2014 school year, Geneva students who would otherwise have participated in the school's student plan will be forced to obtain insurance elsewhere. (ECF No. 88-1 ¶ 11.)

II. CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

A. The Relevant Statutes and Regulations Concerning the Objected to Services

1. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010

On March 23, 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, Pub. L. No. 111-148, 124 Stat. 119 (Mar. 23, 2010) (" ACA" ), became law and an overhaul of the nation's healthcare system began. Section 1001 of the ACA includes specific measures ...


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