The Supreme Court on Monday told yet another lower court to reconsider cases from Catholic groups who object to the part of Obamacare that requires employers to insure birth control as part of their health plans.
Justices told the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit to revisit its earlier decision in favor of the Obama administration — it wants religious nonprofits to comply with its contraception mandate under a compromise framework — by applying the high court’s decision last year in the “Hobby Lobby” case.
In that decision, a divided court said closely held corporations do not have to insure forms of contraception that violate their moral or religious beliefs.
Several religious nonprofits are still fighting the administration in court, however, and hoping for a similar showdown before the justices.
Nonprofits like the Michigan Catholic Conference, whose objections were kept alive by Monday’s order, have told the Supreme Court they are complicit in sin under an arrangement extended by the administration.
And they’ve cheered a string of Supreme Court orders that have put the mandate on hold while circuit-level courts reconsider previous orders against the complaining groups. Since December 2013, the justices have issued some form of relief from the mandate to Little Sisters of the Poor in Colorado, Hobby Lobby, Wheaton College in Illinois, Notre Dame University in Indiana and Archbishop David A. Zubik and the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
“The government keeps making the same bad arguments and the Supreme Court keeps rejecting them — every single time. This is because the government can obviously come up with ways to distribute contraceptives without the forced involvement of Catholic ministries,” said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which closely tracks the cases.
And they’ve cheered a string of Supreme Court orders that have put the mandate on hold while circuit-level courts reconsider previous orders against the complaining groups. In March, the justices issued a similar order in favor of Notre Dame University in Indiana.
Under Obamacare’s existing rules, faith-based nonprofits must file objections to providing contraceptive coverage in writing either to the Health and Human Services Department or to their insurer or third-party administrator.
The nonprofits do not have to manage or pay for the coverage their female workers receive, but objecting groups say the notification still forces them to violate their beliefs.
The administration is still writing regulations to handle objecting corporations, so faith-based groups say as of right now they’re getting even worse treatment.
They want the administration to give them the type of blanket exemption from the mandate that houses of worship enjoy.
So far, circuit-level courts have tended to side with the government, saying the nonprofits are not asked to do much more than a bit of extra paperwork.
Religious liberty advocates are hopeful, though, they will see a split in the circuit course that compels the Supreme Court to take up their pleadings.