D.C. Circuit Holds that Owners of For-Profit Corporations Are Injured by Contraception Mandate

This news is a little late in coming, but readers here should know that the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, in a 2-1 panel decision (as to this specific issue), has reversed the district court’s denial of a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of the federal government’s contraception mandate against the owners of a for-profit business. Though the panel was unanimous as to the issue of the individual plaintiffs’ standing to bring a claim under RFRA, only two judges (Judge Brown and Judge Randolph) held that the plaintiffs had satisfied the standard to obtain a preliminary injunction against the government. The court also held, 2-1, that corporations themselves do not have standing to exercise religion and so it dismissed those RFRA claims.

I recommend this thorough analysis and critique of the opinion by Kevin Walsh. For the record, and by my count (though I may have erred in my counting, and please write me if so), we now have the following breakdown among the federal circuit court of appeals:

  • Circuits that have rejected claims in which for-profits are plaintiffs on behalf of the corporation and the individual owners: Third Circuit, Sixth Circuit.
  • Circuits that have accepted claims in which for-profits are plaintiffs on behalf of the corporation but not the individual owners: Tenth Circuit.
  • Circuits that have accepted claims in which for-profits are plaintiffs on behalf of the individual owners but not the corporation: D.C. Circuit.

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