REAL ALTERNATIVES V. BURWELL (U.S.C.A. 3RD CIRCUIT, 2016)

Real Alternatives, Inc. is an admittedly secular, non-profit organization that provides "life-affirming alternatives to abortion services throughout the nation." The organization and its three full-time employees are morally opposed to abortion and certain forms of contraception. They brought a challenge to the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate ("Mandate") under 5th Amendment equal protection principles and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ("RFRA") contending that similar to religious institutions Real Alternatives is entitled to a total exemption from the Mandate. A lower court rejected these challenges. ADL joined an amicus brief arguing that the religious institution exemption did not violate equal protection because the federal government’s stated interest protecting religious autonomy justified this exemption. Furthermore, Real Alternatives is not similarly situated to houses of worship or other religious institutions because a moral belief on a single issue is not akin to a system of religion. As to the RFRA claim, the brief argues that requiring Real Alternatives to carry comprehensive health insurance, inclusive of prescription contraception, does not violate the religious exercise of its employees. Alternatively, the government’s interests in promoting public health and gender equality are compelling, and the Mandate under these circumstances is the least restrictive means of achieving these interests.