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Geneva College v. Burwell


Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration on behalf of Geneva College challenging the birth control benefit. The birth control benefit is the provision in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that requires certain providers of group health insurance plans to cover contraception without charging a co-pay.

Specifically, Geneva College alleges that the process established by the Obama administration for accommodating religious objections to the birth control benefit in the ACA violates its religious exercise under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The accommodation permits religious nonprofits to self-certify their eligibility for an exemption from the birth control benefit by notifying either their insurance company or the federal government that they object to contraceptive coverage on religious grounds.

Geneva College alleges that this self-certification process violates its religious rights because it “triggers” the provision of contraceptive coverage to which it objects on religious grounds. It further alleges that the paperwork the government requires it to fill out that states its eligibility for a religious exemption from the birth control benefit is, in and of itself, an infringement on its religious freedom in violation of RFRA.


On December 23, 2013, the district court granted Geneva College a preliminary injunction. The government appealed the ruling to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which consolidated the case with Zubik v. Burwell.

On February 11, 2015, a three-judge panel of the Third Circuit reversed the district court’s order for a preliminary injunction, reasoning that the accommodation does not impose a substantial burden on plaintiffs’ religious exercise.

Geneva College appealed the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is scheduled to hear oral arguments on March 23, 2016. The case has been consolidated with six other cases: (1) Priests for Life v. HHS; (2) Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington v. Burwell; (3) Zubik v. Burwell; (4) Southern Nazarene University v. Burwell; (5) East Texas Baptist University v. Burwell; and (6) Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwell.


**last updated March 17, 2016