Commonwealth Of Pennsylvania v. President Of The United States

888 F.3d 52 (3rd Cir. 2018)


Little Sisters are an international Roman Catholic congregation whose mission is to serve the elderly poor of all backgrounds. They operate 25 homes for the elderly in the United States, all of which adhere to the same religious beliefs. The Little Sisters have been involved in litigation regarding the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) for years. Obamacare includes a provision that requires health plans to cover certain forms of preventive care for women without cost sharing which includes all contraceptive methods approved by the Food & Drug Administration, sterilization procedures, and related counseling and education. Failure to comply will subject they employer to a penalty of $100 'for each day in the noncompliance period with respect to each individual to whom such failure relates.' The Departments of Labor and Treasury have interim final regulations exempting certain religious employers from the contraceptive mandate. For exemption, a religious employer had to (1) have the inculcation of religious values as its purpose; (2) primarily employ people who share its religious tenets; (3) primarily provide services to persons who share its religious tenets; and (4) be a church, its integrated auxiliary, a convention or association of a church, or 'the exclusively religious activities of any religious order.' The final rule altered the definition of an eligible religious employer by dropping the first three requirements and provided an accommodation process for religious nonprofit organizations that did not meet this new definition. A religious nonprofit employer could avail itself of the accommodation if it (1) had religious objections to providing coverage for some or all of the required contraceptive services; (2) was 'organized and operate] as a nonprofit entity;' (3) '[held] itself out as a religious organization;' and (4) 'self-certified that it satisfied the first three criteria.' Once an employer made this self-certification to its insurer or third-party administrator, that entity would provide the mandated contraceptive services directly to women covered under the employer's plan. The Departments issued another rule that allowed entities eligible for the accommodation to directly notify HHS of a religious objection. The self-certification accommodation sought to ensure that qualifying employers did not need to 'contract, arrange, pay, or refer for contraceptive coverage,' but their 'plan participants and beneficiaries . . . [would] still benefit from separate payments for contraceptive services without cost sharing or other charge.' The Little Sisters in Colorado and Baltimore filed suit claiming the contraceptive mandate was unconstitutional and that it violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The Supreme Court eventually granted review in order to decide whether the self-certification accommodation violated RFRA. The court remanded the cases, directing the parties to attempt 'to arrive at an approach going forward that accommodates petitioners' religious exercise while at the same time ensuring that women covered by petitioners' health plans receive full and equal health coverage, including contraceptive coverage.' The Departments issued a request for information on 'alternative ways . . . to obtain an accommodation. In May 2017, President Trump issued an executive order that directed the Departments to 'consider issuing amended regulations, consistent with applicable law, to address conscience-based objections to the preventive-care mandate.' The Departments issued two interim final rules (IFRs), one providing for a 'religious exemption' and the other providing for a 'moral exemption.' It eliminates the need for exempt entities to comply with the self-certification accommodation and imposes no new notice requirements upon them. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania filed a civil action alleging that the new interim rules violate the Equal Protection and Establishment Clauses of the Constitution, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, and procedural and substantive provisions of the APA. The Little Sisters moved to intervene under Rule 24(a) or alternatively for permissive intervention under Rule 24(b). The court denied the motion. The court found that the Little Sisters did not have a significantly protectable interest in the litigation and that their interests were adequately represented by the federal government. It held that intervention under Rule 24(b) would delay the litigation and 'prejudice the interest of the parties in securing an efficient resolution' of the case. The Little Sisters appealed.