wins U.S. top court temporary exemption on Obamacare birth control
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[July 07, 2014]
By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme
Court gave a Christian college in Illinois a temporary exemption from
birth control coverage required by President Barack Obama's health
reform law, days after ruling that for-profit employers can opt out for
The court said on Thursday in a split 6-3 decision by the justices
that Wheaton College, which has objected on religious grounds, did
not have to comply with the government compromise process for
nonprofit groups with religious affiliations while litigation
continues, an unsigned order showed.
On Monday, the court said on a 5-4 vote that closely held for-profit
corporations could obtain an exemption based on the religious
beliefs of their owners. By granting Wheaton College's request, the
court indicated that its decision does not dictate the outcome of
litigation involving dozens of nonprofit groups.
Under the healthcare law, known as Obamacare, employers must provide
health insurance policies that cover preventive services for women,
including contraception and sterilization.
The administration had already crafted a compromise for
religious-affiliated nonprofits that allows them to "self-certify"
to their insurance carriers in a form that they object, on religious
grounds, to providing contraception coverage. But various
nonprofits, including Wheaton, said the act of signing the form also
infringed on their religious rights.
The court said in its order that the college could instead send a
letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to state
its religious objections. Employers would still be able to obtain
contraceptive coverage via their health plans, the court said.
The court reached a similar outcome in January in a case brought by
an order of Roman Catholic nuns called the Little Sisters of the
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Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a dissenting opinion, which was joined
by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Justice Elena Kagan. Sotomayor
said the college had failed to meet the requirements for an
injunction, adding that "thinking one's religious beliefs are
substantially burdened – no matter how sincere or genuine that
believe may be – does not make it so."
The unsigned order said the court's action "should not be construed
as an expression of the court's views on the merits."
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham and Richard
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