The appeals court ruled that corporations qualify as legal persons under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act and may invoke its protections.
The HHS mandate is the subject of dozens of cases across the country, involving nearly 200 plaintiffs. Several courts, including appellate courts, have ruled in favor of those seeking injunctions against the mandate's enforcement upon them.
On Nov. 1 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the appellants in Gilardi v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The court found that the mandate places a "substantial burden" on the religious freedom of Francis and Philip Gilardi, two brothers who are Catholic and who own of Freshway Foods and Freshway Logistics, granting the Gilardis a preliminary injunction against the mandate's enforcement.
The court said the Gilardi brothers are "trying to run their business in accordance with their religious beliefs," though it did not rule that the companies themselves have free exercise rights.
Circuit Judge Brown, writing the court's opinion, said, "we conclude (the Affordable Care Act) does … trammel the right of free exercise – a right that lies at the core of our constitutional liberties."
Moreover, that decision noted that some of the contraceptives are classified as carcinogenic by the World Health Organization and indicate an increased risk for breast, cervical and liver cancers, saying that "the science is debatable and may actually undermine the government's cause."
The International Agency for Research on Cancer – part of the World Health Organization – lists estrogen-progestogen oral contraception as a Group 1 known carcinogen, the same category as asbestos, tobacco products and ultraviolet radiation.