Justice Sotomayor Blocks Obamacare Contraception Mandate - U.S. Fourth Circuit
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Justice Sotomayor Blocks Obamacare Contraception Mandate

Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a temporary injunction barring the Obama administration from enforcing its contraceptive mandate against the Colorado- and Maryland-based Little Sisters of the Poor and Illinois-based Christian Brothers Services.

The mandate, which requires many employers to provide health insurance coverage for birth control or face penalties, has had confusing implications for non-profit groups that are merely affiliated with religion.

Religious Non-Profits

To get a better grasp of Justice Sotomayor's injunction, one needs to understand how the Affordable Care Act's exemption works. The ACA's exemption breaks groups down into three categories:

  1. Bona fide religious employers;
  2. For-profit corporations; and
  3. Non-profits which are affiliated with a religious organization.

Under the law, bona fide religious employers like churches are exempt from the contraceptive requirement. At the other end of the spectrum are for-profit corporations, which are not exempt, reports The New York Times.

Meanwhile, nonprofit groups that are affiliated with religious organizations, but that are not owned or controlled by them -- like the Little Sisters of the Poor -- are neither here nor there. The Little Sisters of the Poor is a non-profit comprised of nuns and the Christian Brother Services administers the Sisters' employee health benefits.

To remedy their state of limbo, the federal government agreed in June to allow non-profits to "self-certify" to insurance companies that they were exempt from the contraceptive mandate for religious reasons. This was accomplished by filling out a government-issued form and providing it to the non-profit's insurer or health insurance plan administrator.

Dispute Over Self-Certification Process

The Little Sisters of the Poor, a non-profit comprised of nuns, filed an injunction application with the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that the self-certification process violates their religious beliefs.

The issue now is whether the system of requiring religiously affiliated non-profits to complete and submit government-issued forms is a substantial burden to religious liberty. Justice Sotomayor granted the Sisters' temporary injunction and has ordered the Obama administration to file a brief by Friday morning responding to the religious non-profits' challenge.

Stay tuned to see how the Maryland-based organization's case pans out and makes a ripple effect on the Fourth Circuit and beyond.

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