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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)

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ian47pegasus January 25 2014 at 10:31 AM

If a law is passed it should cover ALL especialy the people that make and pass such laws, If said law exempts any group of people then it should be struck down. Nobody should be above the law, not Nixon, Oboma, Congress, law enforcers NO ONE ! So if the law does NOT apply to all rich and poor alike, then that should be a good indication to the Supreem Court that it should be struck down as a law that does not apply to all , even supreem court judges, then its not a fair and just law and as such, needs to be abolished.

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3 replies
Keith January 25 2014 at 1:21 PM

Their decisions are supposed to be based on Constitutional law, so how does the law and this exemption) apply to some but not all?

It's time the SCOTUS and all federal courts get back to ruling based on Consitutional law and NOT to push some political agenda!

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1 reply
donpantanella Keith January 25 2014 at 1:37 PM

It is never about been about the people, it has always been about the political agenda.

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gov111w January 25 2014 at 1:28 PM

When bit Labor and the Unions got exemptions nothing was said, but let a few Nuns get an exemption that they had to petition the SPOTUS for and its big news. Can anyone spell Bias Reporting

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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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flndersfox January 25 2014 at 11:41 AM

Yes equal. Also the right to do what you want as long as you don't infringe on other people rights.

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hareglsl January 25 2014 at 1:53 PM

And the crumbling begins...........................I mean continues ..!!

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1 reply
Amber J hareglsl January 25 2014 at 2:46 PM

It's the LAW. Chipping away at it from the Republican's will not make it crumble. But if that is what makes you sleep at night-dream on.

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2 replies
myanich49 Amber J January 25 2014 at 4:48 PM

A LAW......based on many lies!

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hareglsl Amber J January 25 2014 at 6:02 PM

I dont sleep good at night.... because of Obama !!!

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MARTHA & PERRY January 25 2014 at 10:49 AM

this govt. is dysfunctional. time to reboot the system.

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1 reply
jsmith120313 MARTHA & PERRY January 25 2014 at 11:00 AM

NOV 2014 is coming soon and its not looking good for these democrats. People are tired of this slow drawn out recovery, record debt, record poverty, record food stamps, record unemployment etc.

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kvave January 25 2014 at 1:55 PM

If theyre gonna Mandate the Ridiculous Premiums .........then MANDATE Wage Increases to Cover it.

Everyone who would have to fork over basically a Car Payment EVERY MONTH , Before a 1500-3000 Deductible BEFORE they recieve Any Care ........on a meager Paycheck should be EXEMPT.

Then again , why do you think the Fines are far cheaper . This is NOT about Healthcare. Its Income Control and Revenue Collection !!

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kvave January 25 2014 at 2:00 PM

Worse Yet than the Bill itself .......

We COULD afford Healthcare for Every Citizen if we werent paying Billions in Care for Illegal Aliens every Year.

Cut them Off , Deport them , and send THEIR Country the Bill

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jrb359 January 25 2014 at 1:17 PM

5 million have got dropped from their healthcare provider and were satisfied with what they had. It will get a lot worse when the employer mandate takes effect! Then we'll see lay offs and reduced hours. Leave it to the Dems to make things difficult for 300 million for the sake of 30 million potential voters.

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2 replies
Cherie jrb359 January 25 2014 at 1:26 PM

part time jobs on the rise as I have seen, a natural consequence of this "so smart plan"..... people I know are not happy with the high premium bronze plan 502 p/month, 6000 deductible, 70 % coverage.... no vision no dental, no other things..... it's not an insurance, it's a wellness and prevention...... and money making mill...

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idahoblue777 jrb359 January 25 2014 at 1:30 PM

Right! You Republicans have such reliable crystal balls. Remember "Romney in a landslide."

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