A collection of Christian institutions who basically can’t stand the idea of their employees using birth control will be allowed to make that argument before the Supreme Court. SCOTUS has agreed to hear seven related cases from religious employers and non-profits who don’t want to cover birth control in their health plans and don’t want anybody else covering it either.
SCOTUS announced Friday that it will hear seven appeals from religious institutions. It’s the fourth damn time Obamacare challenges have been heard by the Supremes, and the second challenge, after Hobby Lobby, to the birth control provision.
The plaintiffs include the Little Sisters of the Poor, a religious order of nuns based in Baltimore who run a series of elder care facilities. The Little Sisters have been arguing for years that having to fill out a form to opt out of providing birth control to their employees makes them “complicit” when their health insurance company provides it directly. That’s the compromise the Obama administration created for religious nonprofits like schools and hospitals, and court after court has ruled it’s acceptable, most recently the 10th U.S. Circuit in July.
The Little Sisters case has been consolidated with six others, all making essentially the same argument. The concern here is that the Supreme Court may rule that the accommodation does “substantially burden” the religious nonprofits, forcing them to be complicit in the hideous practice of women taking birth control. Remember, after all, that they ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby not having to be required to pay for birth control. But Think Progress argues that birth control could win this time, noting that Justice Anthony Kennedy, a likely swing vote, wrote a Hobby Lobby opinion that would seem to indicate he thinks the plaintiffs in this case are asking too much; he seemingly supported the accommdation, writing, “[T]he record in these cases shows that there is an existing, recognized, workable, and already-implemented framework to provide coverage.”
The case will likely be heard around March and decided by June. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents the Little Sisters, celebrated SCOTUS agreeing to hear their case, and Sr. Loraine Marie Maguire, the Mother Provincial of the order, issued this statement through them:
“As Little Sisters of the Poor, we offer the neediest elderly of every race and religion a home where they are welcomed as Christ. We perform this loving ministry because of our faith and cannot possibly choose between our care for the elderly poor and our faith, and we shouldn’t have to,” said Sr. Loraine Marie Maguire, Mother Provincial of the Little Sisters of the Poor. “All we ask is that our rights not be taken away. The government exempts large corporations, small businesses, and other religious ministries from what they are imposing on us – we just want to keep serving the elderly poor as we have always done for 175 years. We look forward to the Supreme Court hearing our case, and pray for God’s protection of our ministry.”
Maguire speaks to the media after a hearing at the 10th Circuit, July 23, 2015. Photo via AP Images