- The Washington Times - Friday, July 4, 2014

The Supreme Court’s decision to let a Christian college to temporarily avoid responsibility for Obamacare’s “contraception mandate” has drawn a sharp rebuke from the court’s female justices, who say the body is hedging on language in the high-profile “Hobby Lobby” case it issued just days prior.

An unsigned order issued Thursday insulates Wheaton College from an “accommodation” the Obama administration offered to religious nonprofits that object to the health care law’s contraceptives rule. The mandate requires employers to insure birth control as part of company health plans.

Thursday’s order is not permanently binding and does not decide the case on its merits.

“Nothing in this interim order affects the ability of the applicant’s employees and students to obtain, without cost, the full range of FDA approved contraceptives,” it said.

Yet the edict comes on the heels of a closely watched opinion, issued Monday, in which an all-male majority of the court said for-profit corporations could not be forced to insure contraceptives if it violates their owner’s religious beliefs.

Its opinion, citing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, said the government had not proven its mandate was the least restrictive means of helping women obtain the contraceptives. In part, the majority noted the government extended a compromise that lets nonprofits duck responsibility for managing or paying for the drugs and services by signing a waiver.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by the court’s other female justices, said if the compromise was good enough for the court on Monday, it should be good enough in the Wheaton case.

“Those who are bound by our decisions usually believe they can take us at our word,” the dissenting justices said. “Not so today.”

They said they do not doubt the legitimacy and importance of the college’s religious connections, but the majority of the court appeared to be backtracking on earlier signals.

“The Court’s grant of an injunction in this case allows Wheaton’s beliefs about the effects of its actions to trump the democratic interest in allowing the government to enforce the law,” Justice Sotomayor said. “In granting an injunction concerning this religious nonprofit accommodation, the availability of which served as the premise for the Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby, the Court cannot possibly by applying our longstanding requirement that a party’s entitlement to relief be indisputably clear.”

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