The Supreme Court has decided to hear a challenge from religious nonprofits who say the Affordable Care Act's requirement to provide birth control violates their religious beliefs.
Challenges to President Obama’s healthcare law keep reaching the Supreme Court. The latest case to be heard by the country’s highest court is a challenge from religious nonprofits who say the requirement to provide birth control violates their religious beliefs.
The court has consolidated the case of the Little Sisters of the Poor with Houston Baptist and East Texas Baptist Universities, Priests for Life, South Nazarene University, Geneva College, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, and Zubik.
“The Becket Fund is grateful that the Supreme Court has decided to weigh in on this important case,” Mark Rienzi, senior counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, who was representing the Little Sisters of the Poor and the Houston Baptist and East Texas Baptist Universities, said in a statement. “The Little Sisters spend their lives taking care of the elderly poor—that is work our government should applaud, not punish. The Little Sisters should not have to fight their own government to get an exemption it has already given to thousands of other employers, including Exxon, Pepsi Cola Bottling Company, and Boeing. Nor should the government be allowed to say that the Sisters aren’t ‘religious enough’ to merit the exemption that churches and other religious ministries have received.”
The Becket Fund also argued and won the Hobby Lobby case, in which the Supreme Court ruled that certain for-profit companies could opt out of the mandate.
In order to opt out of the legal requirement that employers include contraceptives as part of health insurance coverage, employers can file their religious objections and let insurance companies and the government take over. However, the concern from religious groups is that even doing that would implicate them in what they view as a sin, reported The Washington Post.
“These claims are baseless and ultimately about paperwork — not religious freedom,” Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood, wrote in a statement to The Hill. “Religious organizations, who are already exempt from the birth control provision of the [Affordable Care Act], are arguing over whether or not they want to complete their basic paperwork.”
While the challenge made its way through the lower courts, 7 circuit courts sided with the government and 1 sided with the religious nonprofits. The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that ruled in favor of the government ruled that the accommodation to file religious objections was not a substantial burden.
“All plaintiffs must do to opt out is express what they believe and seek what they want via a letter or two-page form,” Judge Cornelia T. L. Pillard wrote for the unanimous three-judge panel. “That bit of paperwork is more straightforward and minimal than many that are staples of nonprofit organizations’ compliance with law in the modern administrative state.”
The case will be argued in the first half of 2016 with a decision expected by the end of June.