Catholic Nuns Granted Stay by Supreme Court
on January 29, 2014
The U.S. Supreme Court has intervened in the faceoff between the federal government and religious employers. The Court has ruled that the contraception coverage required under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) cannot be enforced against a Catholic nuns’ order, at least for now. The Little Sisters of the Poor operate nursing homes and refused to follow the procedure created by the Obama Administration for religious groups to avoid complying with the mandate that employers provide insurance coverage that includes contraceptives.
The nuns argued to the Court that if they are required to fill out the federal exemption form, it will violate their religious beliefs by opening the door to the use of contraceptives by others. In a single page order without any noted dissent, the Court provided a short-term reprieve and ruled that the nuns can send the Department of Health and Human Services a written notice that they operate a religious organization with “religious objections to providing coverage for contraceptive services.” This means that for now the nuns do not have to complete the forms required by the government and the ACA.
The Little Sisters of the Poor have their appeal of the requirement pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. The Supreme Court decision provides the nuns protection while the courts are deciding whether the contraceptive requirement is enforceable. The Supreme Court also stated that the stay protected the Little Sisters from being required to send their opt-out notice to their insurance carrier pending the outcome of their appeal.
Currently, the Supreme Court has not agreed to hear the Little Sisters or any other case brought by a non-profit religious group objecting to the contraceptive regulations. However, the Court will hear arguments in March from for-profit businesses that seek refuge from the coverage requirements because the coverage would violate the business-owners religious beliefs.
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