Supreme Court Must Reject “Ludicrous” Exemptions to Contraceptive Coverage, Says Center for Inquiry

For Immediate Release: February 18, 2016
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director - (207) 358-9785


Signing a paper to claim a religious exemption is not in itself a violation of one’s religious liberty, argues the Center for Inquiry in a brief filed with the Supreme Court in the case of Zubik v. Burwell. Calling the lawsuit “ludicrous,” CFI, joined in their brief by American Atheists, urges the court to stop the snowballing of religious privilege by rejecting the unconstitutional claims of employers attempting to impose their religious beliefs on the lives of their employees.

Already granted an exemption from having to provide contraceptive coverage as guaranteed by the Affordable Care Act, a group of religious nonprofits now claims that the mere act of requesting that exemption constitutes a violation of their religious liberty, making them somehow “complicit” in what they perceive to be a sin. Under the auspices of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), they effectively seek to ensure that their employees are denied any contraceptive coverage whatsoever. 

The plaintiffs have already been granted an overly generous way to avoid participating in a democratically enacted social program, CFI says in its brief. It points out that never before has the Supreme Court held that a requirement to seek a religious exemption constitutes a burden on religion, saying that such broad veto power over generally applicable laws sets a terrible precedent.

“This ludicrous case is a transparent attempt to legislate from the pulpit,” said Nick Little, CFI’s Vice-President and General Counsel. “It showcases the intolerable consequences of RFRA, a bad law that has predictably been twisted into a scattershot weapon used by those who want to see their narrow religious beliefs imposed on everyone else. It is religious privilege at its worst.” 

“CFI opposed RFRA from its inception, and warned that it would result in perverse cases just like this one,” said Robyn Blumner, CEO of the Center for Inquiry. “Let’s be clear, religious liberty is not endangered here. Think about the process for obtaining conscientious objector status on religious grounds. If that is not a burden on religion, submitting a simple form isn’t either. This is about religious employers unconstitutionally inflicting their faith tenets on female employees.” 

The full amicus brief from the Center for Inquiry and American Atheists can be read here.

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The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Council for Secular Humanism. The Center for Inquiry strives to foster a secular society based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at