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Nuns get partial win in U.S. Supreme Court case

Supreme Court Grants Nuns Obamacare Compromise
(Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court said on Friday that, while litigation continues, an order of Roman Catholic nuns need not comply with a part of President Barack Obama's healthcare law requiring employers to provide insurance that covers contraception.

In the latest skirmish over religious objections to providing government-mandated contraception, the four-sentence court order was a partial victory for the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Baltimore-based order of nuns that runs nursing homes, and Illinois-based Christian Brothers Services, which manages healthcare plans for Catholic groups.

The unusually worded order by the court imposed a requirement on the groups before they can claim the exemption. First, they must send written notification to the Department of Health and Human Services saying they object to the contraception mandate.

The court's decision means that, as long as the groups send the letters, they are effectively exempt while litigation continues in lower courts, putting off for now any conclusive decision on this latest legal test of Obamacare, as the president's 2010 Affordable Care Act has become known.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents the groups, hailed the court's order.

"We are delighted that the Supreme Court has issued this order protecting the Little Sisters," attorney Mark Rienzi said in a statement. "The government has lots of ways to deliver contraceptives to people. It doesn't need to force nuns to participate."

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Justice Department stressed in an email to Reuters that the order was not final. "This injunction applies only to the plaintiffs and is not a ruling on the merits of their case. And plaintiffs have always been eligible for an accommodation from the contraceptive coverage requirement."


Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which supports the mandate, said in a statement the case focused only on the way groups like the Little Sisters can claim an exemption. "This is a case about paperwork, not religious liberty," she said.
Dozens of other Catholic groups are involved in similar litigation, and most have won temporary injunctions. So far, no federal appeals court has ruled on the merits of the groups' claims, according to the Becket Fund.

The organizations have accused the federal government of forcing them to support contraception and sterilization in violation of their religious beliefs, or face steep fines.

The Little Sisters lawsuit was filed also on behalf of hundreds of other groups that obtain benefits via Christian Brothers Services, although that has not been certified as a class-action at this stage. The Becket Fund said it would also benefit from the court's order.

The unsigned Supreme Court order said it "should not be construed as an expression of the court's views on the merits."


The Obamacare law requires employers to provide health insurance policies that cover preventive services for women, including contraception and sterilization.

The act makes an exception for religious institutions such as houses of worship that mainly serve and employ members of their own faith, but not for schools, hospitals and charitable organizations that employ people of all faiths.

As a compromise, the administration agreed to an accommodation for non-profits affiliated with religious entities that was finalized in July. But the Little Sisters and other Catholic groups said the compromise process still violated their religious rights.

In court filings, the government had conceded it could not enforce the mandate against the Little Sisters in any case because of the nature of their health-care plan.

A federal judge in Colorado, William Martinez, denied the plaintiffs' request for an injunction on December 27. The Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals followed suit on December 31, prompting a last-minute plea to the Supreme Court.

Although Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a temporary injunction on December 31, the court then spent more than three weeks weighing how to proceed.

In separate cases, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear oral arguments in March on whether for-profit corporations can object to the contraception mandate on religious grounds.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh, Gunna Dickson, Toni Reinhold)

Join the discussion

1000|Char. 1000  Char.
johnamblo January 25 2014 at 8:14 PM

If the Muslims can get away with not joining the Obama-care act and not pay taxes because they view it as a form of gambling, then one other religious group should be able to say that passing out condoms and birth control pills are against their religious beliefs.

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collinsimpson January 25 2014 at 11:25 AM

As hard as it may be to believe these days, the court has actually sided with "the people" and religious freedom, the original cornerstone of America. Doesn't seem to happen much anymore. More and more, the government seems to dictate to the people rather than follow the wishes of the American people claiming that they know what is best for us. Totally unacceptable! If "We The People" do not vote in representatives who actually represent us, we may soon have that ability taken away from us.

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1 reply
cglover218i collinsimpson January 25 2014 at 11:50 AM

There is no doubt about it. Knowledge, of it, will allow you to better prepare for it but will not stop it.

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MERLIN January 25 2014 at 11:26 AM

why do they not rule that the constitution is the first rule of the USA

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2 replies
Saint Richard MERLIN January 25 2014 at 11:34 AM

They did. That's the whole point.

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cglover218i MERLIN January 25 2014 at 11:47 AM

The constitution is already and has always been the first rule of the USA. However, the rule cannot work if the people who are sworn to protect and defend it chose to usurp it and ignore its dictates. These people are traitors and should be tried, convicted and ececuted but they are the ones in control and we are on the path of destruction because of it.

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mike with faith January 25 2014 at 5:22 PM

As a Christian minister, I wholeheartedly support a right to life belief. The sanctity of life is one of great import. How can a society be so bent on murder? the law is not consistent. Abortion is not murder, but if a person causes the death of a fetus, then it is murder.
Look at Hitler and his little play book. See how the beginning of his murder of Jews progressed as the people lost sight of how important life is. Now states are beginning to legalize assisted suicide, and soon euthanasia will be okay. Where will it start?
Also, if you were aborted, how would you empasize your right to death campaign?

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3 replies
awestefeld January 25 2014 at 5:16 PM

They wouldn;t have had to fight this if they had just made a six figure donation to his highnesses 2012 re-election fund

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2 replies
msuzye awestefeld January 25 2014 at 5:23 PM

He would have to be a Republican for that to happen. Just askt the former VA Govenor.

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Roberta awestefeld January 25 2014 at 5:30 PM

Wrong party

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1 reply
wrgrwg338 Roberta January 25 2014 at 5:42 PM

again that shows that the usa Is a joke. What if all the churches would object to one part of Obama care would the suprem be so willing to rule for any other group.usa prove there worth everyday

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MOSHI January 25 2014 at 5:12 PM


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1 reply
Roberta MOSHI January 25 2014 at 5:31 PM

Where do you get your information? Ignorant source.

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Dan Embody January 25 2014 at 11:32 AM

Medicare for all is the answer. Easy to understand where the money comes from. Easy to understand where the money goes out to.

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3 replies
FELIX FIGUERUELO January 25 2014 at 11:36 AM

Per the first Amendment, the government should not interfere with the pratices of any religion.
The Freedom of choice must be practiced by the government, and let people decide weather on pro or con..

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2 replies
leander1169 FELIX FIGUERUELO January 25 2014 at 11:56 AM

So if my religion want to do child sacrifices then the government should not interfere? How about we start stoning unwed mothers to death for having sex? Would that be considered abortion? You like simple solutions, right? Here's one if no one in a religious organization uses their insurance to buy contraceptives no one pays.

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dbs7641937 FELIX FIGUERUELO January 25 2014 at 12:12 PM

Where have you been. We don't go by the constitution since this administration got in. The " bill of rights" has got up and left. Get with the program!!!

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terpmarty January 25 2014 at 3:44 PM

Sanity prevails

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scorpian777 January 25 2014 at 11:43 AM

Why do you keep saying I voted on a comment when I didn't?????????????

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1 reply
Protect Our Backs scorpian777 January 26 2014 at 1:05 AM

Been happening to me too! Could be we are agreeing with something that they oppose and they don't want the numbers to show it is unpopular....

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