Monday, July 29, 2013

RFRA - 1st Amendment - free exercise - for-profit corporation

Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Secy. of HHS – 3d Cir. – July 26, 2013

Appellants Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation , Norman Hahn, Elizabeth Hahn, Norman Lemar Hahn, Anthony Hahn, and Kevin Hahn appeal from an order of the District Court denying their motion for a preliminary injunction.

In their Complaint, Appellants allege that regulations promulgated by the Department of Health and Human Services, which require group health plans and health insurance issuers to provide coverage for contraceptives, violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb,  and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

The District Court denied a preliminary injunction, concluding that Appellants were unlikely to succeed on the merits of their claims.  Appellants then filed an expedited motion for a stay pending appeal with this Court, which was denied.  Now, we consider the fully briefed appeal from the District Court‘s denial of a preliminary injunction.

Before we can even reach the merits of the First Amendment and RFRA claims, we must consider a threshold issue: whether a for-profit, secular corporation is able to 1 The Complaint also alleges that the regulations violate the Establishment Clause, the Free Speech Clause, the Due Process Clause, and the Administrative Procedure Act.

While the District Court‘s opinion addressed some of these additional claims, Appellants have limited their appeal to whether the regulations violate the RFRA and the Free Exercise Clause. engage in religious exercise under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment and the RFRA.

As we conclude that forprofit, secular corporations cannot engage in religious exercise, we will affirm the order of the District Court.