BELMONT ABBEY COLLEGE v. SEBELIUS
878 F.Supp.2d 25 (2012)
BELMONT ABBEY COLLEGE, Plaintiff,
Kathleen SEBELIUS, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, et al., Defendants.
Civil Action No. 11-1989 (JEB).
United States District Court, District of Columbia.
July 18, 2012.
JAMES E. BOASBERG, District Judge.
Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, employers are required to offer group health-insurance plans that cover certain forms of preventive care without charging a co-payment. For example, the Act mandates that group health plans pay in full for all FDA-approved contraceptive services sought by plan participants, including sterilization
procedures, emergency oral contraception (such as the "morning-after" pill), and counseling for women of reproductive age. The Departments of Health and Human Services, Treasury, and Labor subsequently issued regulations to that effect, while simultaneously carving out a narrow exemption to the contraceptive-coverage requirement for religious organizations that meet specific criteria.
Plaintiff Belmont Abbey is a Benedictine college in North Carolina that shares the Catholic Church's view that contraception, sterilization, and abortion are "grave sins." See Am. Compl., ¶¶ 24-25. Belmont alleges that it would violate its strongly held religious beliefs to sponsor any health-insurance plan that pays for these services. Believing it is ineligible for an exemption, Belmont contends that it is required by law to comply with the contraceptive-coverage mandate.
On November 10, 2011, the Abbey filed the instant suit alleging that this mandate violates the First Amendment, the Administrative Procedure Act, and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Instead of addressing the merits of such claims, Defendants have now moved to dismiss the action for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Because the government has indicated its intention to amend the regulations to better take into account religious objections and because Plaintiff is protected in the interim by a safe-harbor provision, the Court agrees that Belmont's injury is too speculative to confer standing and that the case is also not ripe for decision. Dismissal without prejudice is thus appropriate.
A. Statutory and Regulatory Background