What is a 'Church'?: Implied Consent and the Contraception Mandate

27 Pages Posted: 16 Mar 2013 Last revised: 30 Jan 2014

Date Written: 2013


This Article considers the “religious employer” exception to the “contraception mandate” – that is, the “preventative care” requirements announced by Department of Health and Human Services pursuant to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. This exception has triggered significant litigation with a variety of employers claiming that they have been excluding from the “religious employer” classification in violation of both the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. In considering these claims, this Article applies an “implied consent” framework to these cases, which grounds the authority of religious institutions in the presumed consent of their members. On such an account, consent can be assumed so long as members understood the unique religious objectives of the institution when they joined, thereby implicitly authorizing the institution to make rules related to accomplishing these uniquely religious objectives. Building on this implied consent framework, this Article argues that the First Amendment should protect institutions from the requirements of the contraception mandate so long as these institutions were both organized around a core religious mission and where that religious mission was open and obvious to employees. In such circumstances, courts should presume that employees recognized the unique religious objectives of their employer and thereby implicitly authorized their employer to make rules related to achieving these religious goals.

Keywords: contraception, preventive care, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, for-profit organizations, religious employer, First Amendment

Suggested Citation

Helfand, Michael A., What is a 'Church'?: Implied Consent and the Contraception Mandate (2013). Journal of Contemporary Legal Issues, 2013; Pepperdine University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2013/13. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2234069

Michael A. Helfand (Contact Author)

Pepperdine University School of Law ( email )

24255 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90263
United States

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