Case: Union University v. Sebelius

1:14-cv-01079 | U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee

Filed Date: April 4, 2014

Closed Date: Nov. 16, 2017

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

This case is one of the many filed in federal district courts across the country by non-profit Catholic organizations challenging the Affordable Care Act (ACA)'s system for ensuring that employee health insurance covers birth control. Specifically, the plaintiffs objected to notifying the government or their health insurer that they were claiming a religious exemption from the ACA regulation's mandatory insurance coverage for contraception. The current regulatory accommodation allows religious …

This case is one of the many filed in federal district courts across the country by non-profit Catholic organizations challenging the Affordable Care Act (ACA)'s system for ensuring that employee health insurance covers birth control. Specifically, the plaintiffs objected to notifying the government or their health insurer that they were claiming a religious exemption from the ACA regulation's mandatory insurance coverage for contraception. The current regulatory accommodation allows religious organizations who object for religious reasons to providing contraceptive coverage for their employees to notify their insurer, or notify the government directly, of that objection. Then, the government will work with the insurer or health benefits provider to ensure the employees have access to contraception. The religious employers claimed that this approach violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, because they see their action of notifying the government as starting a chain of events that results in their employees receiving contraception.

This particular lawsuit was filed by Union University, a Baptist college, on Apr. 4, 2014, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), and the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) against the Department of Health and Human Services. The plaintiff sought declaratory and injunctive relief and claimed that the ACA's contraception mandate violated its sincerely held religious beliefs, the First Amendment's establishment clause and freedom of speech, and the Fifth Amendment's equal protection clause.

The university moved for a preliminary injunction blocking HHS from implementing the mandate. HHS did not oppose the motion. Though the agency did not believe the university would win on the merits, it agreed that the case should be stayed in light of two similar cases currently pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, Michigan Catholic Conference v. Sebelius, 2013 WL 6838707 (W.D. Mich.) and Catholic Diocese of Nashville v. Sebelius, 2012 WL 5879796 (M.D. Tenn.).

On Apr. 29, 2014, District Judge Daniel Breen granted the preliminary injunction and stayed the case until thirty days after the issuance of a mandate by the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit pending resolution of either of the two aforementioned pending cases.

The Court of Appeals consolidated Michigan Catholic Conference and Catholic Diocese of Nashville, and on June 11, 2014, affirmed the District Judges' denials of preliminary injunctions for all plaintiffs. The court found that organizations exempt from the contraception mandate experienced no burden on the exercise of their religion, and therefore were unlikely to succeed in proving a violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. And organizations eligible to receive an "accommodation" under the law needed only to provide a "self-certification" that documented that they had a religious objection. This self-certification did not constitute an unlawful religious burden. For similar reasons, the law did not violate the First Amendment's free speech, free exercise, or establishment clauses.

On Mar. 24, 2017, the present case was reassigned to Chief Judge Thomas S. Anderson.

On Oct. 31, 2017, the Sixth Circuit dismissed bothMichigan Catholic Conference and Catholic Diocese of Nashville, which the defendants informed the court in a Nov. 3, 2017 status report.

On Nov. 6, 2017, Judge Anderson granted the defendants' request to extend the injunction and stay, which had been scheduled to lift Nov. 30, 2017, until Dec. 4, 2017.

On October 6, 2017, President Trump changed federal government's policy on the matter, removing the requirement that employers provide contraception coverage through health insurance plans.

On Nov. 16, 2017, the plaintiff stipulated to dismissal of the case, and on the same day, the Judge Anderson dismissed the case.

Summary Authors

Andrew Junker (10/8/2014)

Elizabeth Greiter (1/6/2018)

Related Cases

Michigan Catholic Conference v. Sebelius, Western District of Michigan (2013)

Roman Catholic Diocese of Nashville v. Sebelius, Middle District of Tennessee (2013)

People

For PACER's information on parties and their attorneys, see: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/6233143/parties/union-university-v-sebelius/


Judge(s)

Breen, J. Daniel (Tennessee)

Bryant, Edward G. (Tennessee)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Burleson, John D. (Tennessee)

Conder, Milton Dale (Tennessee)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Bennett, Michelle Renee (District of Columbia)

Humphreys, Bradley Philip (District of Columbia)

Judge(s)

Breen, J. Daniel (Tennessee)

Bryant, Edward G. (Tennessee)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Burleson, John D. (Tennessee)

Conder, Milton Dale (Tennessee)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Bennett, Michelle Renee (District of Columbia)

Humphreys, Bradley Philip (District of Columbia)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

Docket

Nov. 16, 2017 Docket
3-1

Complaint

April 4, 2014 Complaint
15

Order Granting Plaintiff's Mot. for Prel. Injunc.

April 29, 2014 Order/Opinion

Docket

See docket on RECAP: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/6233143/union-university-v-sebelius/

Last updated May 12, 2022

ECF Number Description Date Link
1

MOTION for Preliminary Injunction by Union University. (Attachments: # 1 Memorandum in Support of Motion for Preliminay Injunction, # 2 Exhibit 1 - Women's Preventive Service, # 3 Exhibit 2 Free Publications)(Conder, Milton) (Entered: 04/04/2014)

April 4, 2014 PACER
1

MOTION for Preliminary Injunction by Union University. (Attachments: # 1 Memorandum in Support of Motion for Preliminay Injunction, # 2 Exhibit 1 − Women's Preventive Service, # 3 Exhibit 2 Free Publications)(Conder, Milton) (Entered: 04/04/2014)

April 4, 2014
2

COMPLAINT against All Defendants (Filing fee $ 400 receipt number 0651-1881443), filed by All Plaintiffs. (Attachments: # 1 Civil Cover Sheet, # 2 Summons Sebelius, # 3 Summons Dept. HHS, # 4 Summons Lew, # 5 Summons Perez)(Conder, Milton) Modified on 4/7/2014- Main document sealed as it was filed in error by the filing attorney per 4/7/14 telephone call. See DE# 3 for the Complaint (cdi). (Entered: 04/04/2014)

April 4, 2014 PACER
2

COMPLAINT against All Defendants (Filing fee $ 400 receipt number 0651−1881443), filed by All Plaintiffs. (Attachments: # 1 Civil Cover Sheet, # 2 Summons Sebelius, # 3 Summons Dept. HHS, # 4 Summons Lew, # 5 Summons Perez)(Conder, Milton) Modified on 4/7/2014− Main document sealed as it was filed in error by the filing attorney per 4/7/14 telephone call. See DE# 3 for the Complaint (cdi). (Entered: 04/04/2014)

April 4, 2014
3

Notice of Correction to 2 Complaint, . (Attachments: # 1 Complaint)(Conder, Milton) (Entered: 04/04/2014)

April 4, 2014
3

Notice of Correction to 2 Complaint, . (Attachments: # 1 Complaint)(Conder, Milton) (Entered: 04/04/2014)

April 4, 2014 PACER
4

Chief Judge J. Daniel Breen and Magistrate Judge Edward G. Bryant added. (jlh) (Entered: 04/07/2014)

April 4, 2014 PACER
5

Summons Issued as to Department of Health and Human Services, Jacob J. Lew, Thomas E. Perez, Kathleen Sebelius. The filer has been notified electronically that the summons has been issued, and the new docket entry reflects this. Upon notification of the new docket entry, the filer is to print the issued summons in order to effect service. (Attachments: # 1 Summons Lew, # 2 Summons Perez, # 3 Summons Sebelius)(jlh) (Entered: 04/07/2014)

April 7, 2014
6

NOTICE OF CASE TRACKING ASSIGNMENT PURSUANT TO LOCAL RULE 16.2: Pursuant to Local Rule 16.2, this case has been assigned to the Standard track. http://www.tnwd.uscourts.gov/pdf/content/LocalRules.pdf (jlh) (Entered: 04/07/2014)

April 7, 2014
5

Summons Issued as to Department of Health and Human Services, Jacob J. Lew, Thomas E. Perez, Kathleen Sebelius. The filer has been notified electronically that the summons has been issued, and the new docket entry reflects this. Upon notification of the new docket entry, the filer is to print the issued summons in order to effect service. (Attachments: # 1 Summons Lew, # 2 Summons Perez, # 3 Summons Sebelius)(jlh) (Entered: 04/07/2014)

April 7, 2014 PACER
6

NOTICE OF CASE TRACKING ASSIGNMENT PURSUANT TO LOCAL RULE 16.2: Pursuant to Local Rule 16.2, this case has been assigned to the Standard track. http://www.tnwd.uscourts.gov/pdf/content/LocalRules.pdf (jlh) (Entered: 04/07/2014)

April 7, 2014 PACER
7

NOTICE of Summons by Milton Dale Conder, Jr on behalf of Union University. (Conder, Milton) (Entered: 04/07/2014)

April 7, 2014
8

NOTICE of Appearance by John D. Burleson on behalf of All Plaintiffs (Burleson, John) (Entered: 04/07/2014)

April 7, 2014
7

NOTICE of Summons by Milton Dale Conder, Jr on behalf of Union University. (Conder, Milton) (Entered: 04/07/2014)

April 7, 2014 PACER
9

Notice of Correction to 8 Notice of Appearance . (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit Corrected Notice of Appearance for John D. Burleson)(Burleson, John) (Entered: 04/07/2014)

April 7, 2014
8

NOTICE of Appearance by John D. Burleson on behalf of All Plaintiffs (Burleson, John) (Entered: 04/07/2014)

April 7, 2014 PACER
10

Summons Issued as to Edward L. Stanton, United States Attorney. The filer has been notified electronically that the summons has been issued, and the new docket entry reflects this. Upon notification of the new docket entry, the filer is to print the issued summons in order to effect service. (jlh) (Entered: 04/08/2014)

April 8, 2014
9

Notice of Correction to 8 Notice of Appearance . (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit Corrected Notice of Appearance for John D. Burleson)(Burleson, John) (Entered: 04/07/2014)

April 7, 2014 PACER
11

MOTION for Temporary Restraining Order proposed order submitted by Union University. (Attachments: # 1 Memorandum in Support of Motion for Temporary Restraining Order, # 2 Exhibit 1−Declaration of Dale Conder, Jr., # 3 Exhibit 2− Order Granting Stay, # 4 Certificate of Consultation)(Conder, Milton) (Entered: 04/24/2014)

April 24, 2014
10

Summons Issued as to Edward L. Stanton, United States Attorney. The filer has been notified electronically that the summons has been issued, and the new docket entry reflects this. Upon notification of the new docket entry, the filer is to print the issued summons in order to effect service. (jlh) (Entered: 04/08/2014)

April 8, 2014 PACER
12

NOTICE of Appearance by Bradley Philip Humphreys on behalf of All Defendants (Humphreys, Bradley) (Entered: 04/24/2014)

April 24, 2014
11

MOTION for Temporary Restraining Order proposed order submitted by Union University. (Attachments: # 1 Memorandum in Support of Motion for Temporary Restraining Order, # 2 Exhibit 1-Declaration of Dale Conder, Jr., # 3 Exhibit 2- Order Granting Stay, # 4 Certificate of Consultation)(Conder, Milton) (Entered: 04/24/2014)

April 24, 2014 PACER
12

NOTICE of Appearance by Bradley Philip Humphreys on behalf of All Defendants (Humphreys, Bradley) (Entered: 04/24/2014)

April 24, 2014 PACER
13

NOTICE by Department of Health and Human Services, Jacob J. Lew, Thomas E. Perez, Kathleen Sebelius, United States Department of Labor, United States Department of Treasury, Internal Revenue Service re 1 MOTION for Preliminary Injunction Non−Opposition to Plaintiffs Motion for Preliminary Injunction and Request for Stay (Humphreys, Bradley) (Entered: 04/25/2014)

April 25, 2014
13

NOTICE by Department of Health and Human Services, Jacob J. Lew, Thomas E. Perez, Kathleen Sebelius, United States Department of Labor, United States Department of Treasury, Internal Revenue Service re 1 MOTION for Preliminary Injunction Non-Opposition to Plaintiffs Motion for Preliminary Injunction and Request for Stay (Humphreys, Bradley) (Entered: 04/25/2014)

April 25, 2014 PACER
14

NOTICE by Union University Response to the Defendant's Request for a Stay proposed order submitted (Conder, Milton) (Entered: 04/29/2014)

April 29, 2014
15

ORDER GRANTING UNION UNIVERSITY'S MOTION FOR A PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION AND STAYING ALL PROCEEDINGS IN THIS MATTER 1 . Signed by Chief Judge J. Daniel Breen on 4/29/14. (Breen, J.) (Entered: 04/29/2014)

April 29, 2014
14

NOTICE by Union University Response to the Defendant's Request for a Stay proposed order submitted (Conder, Milton) (Entered: 04/29/2014)

April 29, 2014 PACER
16

TEXT ORDER (no document attached) Finding as Moot 11 Motion for TRO pursuant to the Order 15 entered on this date granting the motion for preliminary injunction and staying all proceedings in this matter.. Signed by Chief Judge J. Daniel Breen on 4/29/14. (Breen, J.) (Entered: 04/29/2014)

April 29, 2014
15

ORDER GRANTING UNION UNIVERSITY'S MOTION FOR A PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION AND STAYING ALL PROCEEDINGS IN THIS MATTER 1 . Signed by Chief Judge J. Daniel Breen on 4/29/14. (Breen, J.) (Entered: 04/29/2014)

April 29, 2014 PACER
17

SUMMONS Returned Executed by Union University. All Defendants. U.S. Attorney served on 4/9/2014. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit Signature card, # 2 Summons Lew summons, # 3 Exhibit signature card, # 4 Summons signature card, # 5 Exhibit Perez summons, # 6 Summons Sebelius summons, # 7 Exhibit signature card, # 8 Summons Stanton summons, # 9 Exhibit Signature card)(Conder, Milton) (Entered: 05/02/2014)

May 2, 2014
16

TEXT ORDER (no document attached) Finding as Moot 11 Motion for TRO pursuant to the Order 15 entered on this date granting the motion for preliminary injunction and staying all proceedings in this matter.. Signed by Chief Judge J. Daniel Breen on 4/29/14. (Breen, J.) (Entered: 04/29/2014)

April 29, 2014 PACER
18

NOTICE of Appearance by Michelle Renee Bennett on behalf of All Defendants (Bennett, Michelle) (Entered: 06/11/2015)

June 11, 2015
17

SUMMONS Returned Executed by Union University. All Defendants. U.S. Attorney served on 4/9/2014. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit Signature card, # 2 Summons Lew summons, # 3 Exhibit signature card, # 4 Summons signature card, # 5 Exhibit Perez summons, # 6 Summons Sebelius summons, # 7 Exhibit signature card, # 8 Summons Stanton summons, # 9 Exhibit Signature card)(Conder, Milton) (Entered: 05/02/2014)

May 2, 2014 PACER
18

NOTICE of Appearance by Michelle Renee Bennett on behalf of All Defendants (Bennett, Michelle) (Entered: 06/11/2015)

June 11, 2015 PACER
19

ADMIN ORDER 2017−11 − ORDER REASSIGNING CASE. Case reassigned to Chief Judge S. Thomas Anderson for all further proceedings. Chief Judge J. Daniel Breen no longer assigned to case. Signed by Judge J. Daniel Breen on 3/24/2017. (Breen, J.) (Entered: 03/24/2017)

March 24, 2017
19

ADMIN ORDER 2017-11 - ORDER REASSIGNING CASE. Case reassigned to Chief Judge S. Thomas Anderson for all further proceedings. Chief Judge J. Daniel Breen no longer assigned to case. Signed by Judge J. Daniel Breen on 3/24/2017. (Breen, J.) (Entered: 03/24/2017)

March 24, 2017 PACER
21

STATUS REPORT Responding to Court Order by Union University. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit)(Conder, Milton) (Entered: 10/04/2017)

Oct. 4, 2017
22

STATUS REPORT by R. Alexander Acosta, Department of Health and Human Services, Steven T. Mnuchin, United States Department of Labor, United States Department of Treasury, Internal Revenue Service, Don Wright. (Bennett, Michelle) (Entered: 11/03/2017)

Nov. 3, 2017
20

ORDER REQUESTING STATUS REPORT. Signed by Chief Judge S. Thomas Anderson on 10/4/17. (mbm) (Entered: 10/04/2017)

Oct. 4, 2017 PACER
21

STATUS REPORT Responding to Court Order by Union University. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit)(Conder, Milton) (Entered: 10/04/2017)

Oct. 4, 2017 PACER
23

ORDER EXTENDING INJUNCTION AND REQUESTING FURTHER STATUS UPDATES. Signed by Chief Judge S. Thomas Anderson on 11/6/17. (mbm) (Entered: 11/06/2017)

Nov. 6, 2017
24

STIPULATION of Dismissal by Union University. (Conder, Milton) (Entered: 11/16/2017)

Nov. 16, 2017
22

STATUS REPORT by R. Alexander Acosta, Department of Health and Human Services, Steven T. Mnuchin, United States Department of Labor, United States Department of Treasury, Internal Revenue Service, Don Wright. (Bennett, Michelle) (Entered: 11/03/2017)

Nov. 3, 2017 PACER
25

JUDGMENT. Signed by Chief Judge S. Thomas Anderson on 11/16/2017. (mbb) (Entered: 11/16/2017)

Nov. 16, 2017
23

ORDER EXTENDING INJUNCTION AND REQUESTING FURTHER STATUS UPDATES. Signed by Chief Judge S. Thomas Anderson on 11/6/17. (mbm) (Entered: 11/06/2017)

Nov. 6, 2017 PACER
24

STIPULATION of Dismissal by Union University. (Conder, Milton) (Entered: 11/16/2017)

Nov. 16, 2017 RECAP
25

JUDGMENT. Signed by Chief Judge S. Thomas Anderson on 11/16/2017. (mbb) (Entered: 11/16/2017)

Nov. 16, 2017 RECAP

State / Territory: Tennessee

Case Type(s):

Speech and Religious Freedom

Special Collection(s):

Contraception Insurance Mandate

Key Dates

Filing Date: April 4, 2014

Closing Date: Nov. 16, 2017

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

A Baptist college that believed the ACA's contraception coverage mandate and requirements for exempt religious organizations violated their religious beliefs.

Plaintiff Type(s):

Non-profit religious organization

Public Interest Lawyer: No

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

U.S. Government, Federal

Defendant Type(s):

Jurisdiction-wide

Hospital/Health Department

Case Details

Causes of Action:

42 U.S.C. § 1983

Religious Freedom Rest. Act/Religious Land Use and Inst. Persons Act (RFRA/RLUIPA)

Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq.

Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201

Constitutional Clause(s):

Free Exercise Clause

Establishment Clause

Freedom of speech/association

Equal Protection

Availably Documents:

Trial Court Docket

Complaint (any)

Injunctive (or Injunctive-like) Relief

Outcome

Prevailing Party: None Yet / None

Nature of Relief:

Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order

Source of Relief:

Settlement

Litigation

Form of Settlement:

Voluntary Dismissal

Order Duration: 2014 - None

Content of Injunction:

Preliminary relief granted

Issues

General:

Abortion

Contraception

Discrimination-basis:

Religion discrimination

Type of Facility:

Non-government non-profit