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Constitutional Law — freedom of religion

United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit


Constitutional Law — freedom of religion

A Catholic university was properly denied a temporary injunction excusing it from complying the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive requirements.

“The novelty of Notre Dame’s claim—not for the exemption, which it has, but for the right to have it without having to ask for it—deserves emphasis. United States law and public policy have a history of accommodating religious beliefs, as by allowing conscientious objection to the military draft— and now exempting churches and religious institutions from the Affordable Care Act’s requirements of coverage of contraceptive services. What makes this case and others like it involving the contraception exemption paradoxical and virtually unprecedented is that the beneficiaries of the religious exemption are claiming that the exemption process itself imposes a substantial burden on their religious faiths. The closest analogues we have found are cases in which churches seeking rezoning or variances claim that the process for obtaining permission is so cumbersome as to constitute a substantial burden on religious practice. E.g., Saints Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church, Inc. v. City of New Berlin, 396 F.3d 895, 901 (7th Cir. 2005), and cases cited there. Consider also United States v. Friday, 525 F.3d 938, 947–48 (10th Cir. 2008), in which a member of a tribe had been prosecuted for killing, without a permit to do so, a bald eagle, for use in a religious ceremony. The court expressed skepticism that the permitting process itself might have imposed a substantial burden on a religious exercise. Cf. United States v. Oliver, 255 F.3d 588, 589 (8th Cir. 2001) (per curiam).”


13-3853 University of Notre Dame v. Sebelius

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Simon, J., Posner, J.

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