Just days after the ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby stores, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with a Christian college in a case involving emergency contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act. The court said in a unsigned opinion that Wheaton College in Illinois can opt out, at least temporarily, in a compromise offered by the Obama administration to religious colleges, businesses and organizations.
Under the ruling, the high court granted Wheaton College the ability to write the Department of Health and Human Services, noting the institution’s religious objections to providing emergency contraceptive coverage, rather than filling out Form 700, to which the college objects. The government then would notify the third party to provide birth control.
The ruling is the latest in a saga of challenges against the Affordable Care Act and may foreshadow the next scenario of court battles over the birth control mandate that could take place this year. The high court granted Wheaton College an injunction pending appeal.
President Obama offered a compromise to faith-based institutions that requires religious groups to fill out a form, Form 700, stating their objections to providing birth control coverage. Under the exemption, religious institutions, such as colleges, businesses and hospitals, are not required to pay for coverage, but insurers and administrators take on the cost.
However, Wheaton College and other faith-based groups object to the administration’s compromise, noting that the form burdens their religious beliefs.
In light of the ruling, three female justices of the high court sharply criticized their colleagues in a 16-page dissent. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, noted that the ruling did not express their views.
“Those who are bound by our decisions usually believe they can take us at our word,” Sotomayor wrote. “After expressly relying on the availability of the religious-nonprofit accommodation to hold that the contraceptive coverage requirement violates [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act] as applied to closely held for-profit corporations, the Court now, as the dissent in Hobby Lobby feared it might, retreats from that position.”
Wheaton and other nonprofit organizations sued over Form 700 because they said it requires them to join in subsidizing and distributing contraception and abortion causing drugs.
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