A local car dealer's case against the federal Affordable Care Act could be decided by any number of cases potentially headed for the nation's highest court.
In a lawsuit filed in late June, car dealer Joe Holland claims the federal health care overhaul's provision requiring contraceptive coverage violates his right to religious freedom.
Holland, who says he does not oppose all types of contraception, says he opposes "abortifacient drugs" or those commonly referred to as morning-after pills.
Under the law, employers with more than 50 full-time employees are required to provide a certain level of health insurance coverage, including U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods. Holland Chevrolet has about 150 full-time employees.
The case took an unexpected turn in July, when Holland's attorneys filed an amended complaint after learning the plan he currently provides already covers those kinds of drugs. The new complaint dropped the motion for temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction.
Certain companies are exempt from the provision, however, such as employers with 50 or fewer full-time employees, nonprofit religious employers and other "grandfathered" plans.
Holland's lawsuit says if his company violates this requirement, he could face a penalty of $100 per day per employee.
In August, the government filed a motion to dismiss the case, arguing the lawsuit failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
The memorandum said the challenge relies on the argument that for-profit secular corporations can exercise religion, saying if the court were to rule in favor of this, it would "permit for-profit, secular companies and their owners to become laws unto themselves."
The government entities argued no court has held that these corporations are religious corporations under federal law.
"Because there are an infinite variety of alleged religious beliefs, such companies and their owners could claim countless exemptions from an untold number of general commercial laws designed to protect against unfair discrimination in the workplace and to protect the health and well-being of individual employees and their families," the memorandum states.
The most recently docketed filing, an Oct. 11 notice of supplemental authority, says there is new case law developing in this issue.
Noting the government's pending motion to dismiss, the notice says in the case of Newland v. Sebelius, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit ruled that for-profit corporations are classified as people for purposes of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Under this ruling, the document continues, providing contraceptive drugs would burden the corporation's religious exercise.
Jeremiah Dys, president of the Family Policy Counsel and one of Holland's attorneys, said the Holland case could be appealed to the 4th Circuit if it is dismissed.
This wouldn't be the first time a case challenging this provision went before the 4th Circuit. Previously, the 4th Circuit took up the case of Liberty University v. Lew.