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Zubik vs Burwell (2016)

Facts:

- Petitioners are primarily nonprofit organizations that provide health insurance to their
employees.
- Federal regulations require petitioners to cover certain contraceptives as part of their health
plans, unless petitioners submit a form either to their insurer or to the Federal Government,
stating that they object on religious grounds to providing contraceptive coverage.

Petitioners’ contention:

- submitting this notice substantially burdens the exercise of their religion, in violation of the
Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993,

Facts:

- The Court requested supplemental briefing from the parties addressing “whether contraceptive
coverage could be provided to petitioners’ employees, through petitioners’ insurance
companies, without any such notice from petitioners.”
- Both petitioners and the Government now confirm that such an option is feasible
- Petitioners have clarified that their religious exercise is not infringed where they “need to do
nothing more than contract for a plan that does not include coverage for some or all forms of
contraception,” even if their employees receive cost-free contraceptive coverage from the same
insurance company.
- The Government has confirmed that the challenged procedures “for employers with insured
plans could be modified to operate in the manner posited in the Court’s order while still
ensuring that the affected women receive contraceptive coverage seamlessly, together with the
rest of their health coverage.”

ISSUE: w/n the contraceptive mandate is in violation of Religious Freedom Restoration


Act of 1993.

SC ruling:

- the Court vacates the judgments below and remands to the respective United States Court sof
Appeals for the Third, Fifth, Tenth, and D. C. Circuits
- The Court expresses no view on the merits of the cases.
- In particular, the Court does not decide whether petitioners’ religious exercise has been
substantially burdened, whether the Government has a compelling interest, or whether the
current regulations are the least restrictive means of serving that interest.

- After determining through supplemental briefing that insurance companies could


provide contraceptive coverage to employees of organizations that object to such
coverage on religious grounds without the organizations needing to provide
notification, the Court vacated the case for further consideration by the lower
courts in light of this agreement from the parties. In a per curiam opinion, the
Court held that it reached no decision on the merits of the case, and nothing in
the opinion should be construed as affecting the ability of the government to
ensure that employees covered by the insurance plans at issue receive full
contraceptive coverage. Given the importance of the issues involved in this case,
the Court remanded the case to the lower courts to afford the parties the
opportunity to determine how to proceed in a manner that grants employees full
contraceptive coverage while also respecting the organizations’ religious
exercise.
- In her concurring opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote that nothing in the
majority opinion should be construed as signaling to lower courts where the
Supreme Court stands on the merits of the case. Remanding the case allows the
lower courts to consider whether the existing or modified regulations may
properly balance the interests at issue.

SUMMARY:

Employers must cover certain contraceptives as part of their health plans unless the
employer submits a form to their insurer or to the federal government, stating that they object on
religious grounds to providing contraceptive coverage. The plaintiff-employers alleged that
submitting this notice substantially burdened the exercise of their religion, in violation of the
Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993,, 42 U.S.C. 2000bb. In supplemental briefing, the
parties acknowledged that contraceptive coverage could be provided to employees, through
insurance companies, without such notice. Plaintiffs “need to do nothing more than contract for
a plan that does not include coverage for some or all forms of contraception,” and employees
could receive cost-free contraceptive coverage from the same insurance company, seamlessly,
with the rest of their coverage. Based on these stipulations, the Supreme Court vacated the
judgments below and remanded to determine an approach that will accommodate the
employers’ religious exercise while ensuring that women covered by their health plans “receive
full and equal health coverage, including contraceptive coverage.” The Court did not decide
whether the employers’ religious exercise has been substantially burdened, whether the
government has a compelling interest, or whether the current regulations are the least restrictive
means of serving that interest.