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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.
patricimarie January 25 2014 at 2:15 PM

These people do good
.Who can argue with that?

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2 replies
larryosman patricimarie January 25 2014 at 2:37 PM

Year right they do good, with our money not theirs. Do you really think they care about anyone but themselves. Wake up and smell the B.S. By the way brush up on your Chinese because they own us.

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1 reply
staiveanb larryosman January 25 2014 at 3:12 PM

Guess we should be glad chinese have small dics. Americans will soon be bending over gra bbing our ankles.

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gospelecho1930loyde patricimarie January 25 2014 at 2:46 PM

Are you forgetting all the young boys that were molested and humiliated and damaged by these "good people" ? Wake up PM these people ,(priests and popes) have been violating children since the catholic church was formed. All in the name of "infallability" do you think God blesses such mess?

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1 reply
larryosman gospelecho1930loyde January 25 2014 at 3:05 PM

Thats right blame the whole Catholic Church for a low percentage of perverts. Probably the same percentage as doctors, lawyers, warehouse workers or bloggers. Grow up.

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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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cmccla1439 January 25 2014 at 5:48 PM

Let's hope that Hobby Lobby can be exempted as well.

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1 reply
henry_bevis cmccla1439 January 25 2014 at 6:29 PM

I am praying to that end each and every day.

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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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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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Ghetto Cat January 25 2014 at 5:40 PM

When we act like a mass, we're controlled like one.

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Jerry January 25 2014 at 5:34 PM


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bentbouy1 January 25 2014 at 5:30 PM

Nuns should never have been under it anyway.

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Shannon January 25 2014 at 5:22 PM

Birth control is not only prescribed to prevent pregnancy. However Viagra..........

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1 reply
bentbouy1 Shannon January 25 2014 at 5:32 PM

Sandra Fluck sure needs her bc and we pay for it. She only started a job at 100,000 poor thing

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william.boyce1 January 25 2014 at 3:01 PM

It does not matter how many people have health care coverage.There are not enough doctors to serve everybody anyway.

Flag Reply +8 rate up
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