The United States Supreme Court will hear a case brought by nuns centering on religious liberty issues affected by the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.
The court announced on Nov. 7 that it will hear the case that pits Little Sisters of the Poor against the federal government. This is the fourth case the high court has heard involving Obamacare. It is likely to be heard in the spring of 2016.
This case, filed in 2013, focuses on religious non-profits requirements to include birth control in their employees’ government-mandated health care plans. The nuns said forcing them to provide contraception, which goes against Catholic teaching, would cause them to violate their religious beliefs.
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The Little Sisters operates homes servicing the elderly in 31 countries. Under the Affordable Care Act, the group is required to either provide health coverage or release the responsibility to insurers. The nuns believe signing a release for an insurer to take over the responsibility is tantamount to distributing contraception.
The case was filed under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. Under the federal law, the government must provide additional relief for citizens to freely exercise their religion. It states that religious expression shouldn’t be “substantially burdened” except where there is a “compelling government interest.”
A review by the Supreme Court may not bode well for the health care law that President Barack Obama cherishes as a key victory for his administration. The lawsuit brought by the nuns is similar to one filed by Hobby Lobby in 2012. In the Hobby Lobby case, the central issue was whether a privately owned company must obey Obamacare mandates regarding contraception if they went against the owners’ religious convictions.
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Hobby Lobby, based in Oklahoma, is owned by the Green family. The Green family are known for their devout Christian beliefs and do not believe in contraception.
The court ruled 5-4 that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act protects closely-held firms and agreed that Hobby Lobby should be exempted from the mandates.
The rule mandating birth control be provided through a private company’s insurance “would put these merchants to a difficult choice; either give up the right to seek judicial protection of their religious liberty or forgo the benefits, available to their competitors, of operating as corporations,” said Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the majority opinion.
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