Geneva College doesn't have to provide its employees with insurance coverage for contraception, abortion-inducing drugs and other "preventive services," under a decision issued Monday by U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti.
The decision is another in a string of blows to the federal government's efforts to apply a contraception coverage mandate to nonprofit organizations affiliated with religions.
If the Beaver Falls college, founded by the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, has to comply with the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate, it will be compelled to violate its founding tenets, the judge found.
"Without [a preliminary injunction], Geneva will be forced to choose between: (a) violating its religious convictions by acquiescing to a government requirement that it facilitate access to abortion-inducing drugs and devices; and (b) violating its religious convictions by cancelling all health care coverage for its employees," Judge Conti wrote.
The act requires that most employers provide insurance that includes coverage for contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs. Churches are exempt, but religious nonprofit organizations -- like Geneva College -- only get an "accommodation."
That accommodation allows them to tell their insurance administrator that they object to the coverage. The insurance administrator must then provide the coverage to the employees at no charge to the employer, and seek federal reimbursement for any costs.
In June, the judge similarly ruled that for now, Geneva College doesn't have to provide contraception coverage to its students.
"The court previously found that this is a not a line that the government can compel Geneva to cross," Judge Conti wrote. "The court makes the same finding again."
On Friday, U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab granted a permanent injunction against the contraception mandate to the Roman Catholic dioceses of Pittsburgh and Erie and related, nonprofit organizations.
Unlike Judge Schwab's injunction, Judge Conti's is only preliminary, meaning that Geneva's case can continue in her court. The dioceses' cases are likely to be appealed to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
A tally kept by The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty indicates that of 43 lawsuits filed by nonprofit organizations challenging the mandate, injunctions have been granted in six and denied in one, with the remainder pending.
Rich Lord: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1542 or on Twitter @richelord.
Rich Lord: email@example.com or 412-263-1542. Twitter: @richelord. First Published December 23, 2013 4:02 PM