Third Circuit Denies En Banc Petition in Contraception Mandate Case

This week, the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit voted 7-5 to deny a petition for rehearing en banc in a private for-profit employer’s challenge to the federal contraception mandate in Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. HHS. As SCOTUSBlog notes, this creates a circuit split between the Third and Tenth Circuits on whether the mandate imposes an impermissible burden on the free exercise of religion under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). (The cases include constitutional free exercise claims as well, but the RFRA claims are significantly stronger.) This increases the likelihood the Supreme Court will consider the contraception mandate in the 2013-14 term.