A federal court stayed its earlier decision compelling the Little Sisters of the Poor to comply with the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, meaning the group can choose not to comply while waiting on an appeal to the Supreme Court.
The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in July that the Denver-based religious order must comply with the Obama Administration’s opt-out compromise. The Little Sisters said the compromise infringed on their religious liberty and filed suit against the Administration.
The lawyers representing the Little Sisters welcomed the news.
“The federal government doesn’t need the Little Sisters or any other ministry to help it distribute abortion-inducing drugs and other contraceptives,” Mark Rienzi of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said in a statement. “Yet it not only insists on forcing them to participate in the delivery, it argues that their beliefs against participating are wrong and that government officials and judges can tell the Little Sisters what Catholic theology really requires.”
Nonprofit groups that object to contraception on religious grounds must notify the Department of Health and Human Services. In turn, insurance companies provide coverage to women at no cost to the employer.
But many Catholic groups objected to the compromise, claiming they would be complicit in providing contraception by notifying HHS, and more than 20 religious nonprofits have been granted emergency injunctions against complying with the mandate.
In a separate case Friday, the Sixth US Circuit Court of Appeals reaffirmed its prior judgment that the mandate does not violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
This case primarily concerns six Catholic groups in Tennessee and Michigan that claim the mandate violates their religious beliefs, including the Michigan Catholic Conference and Catholic Charities of Kalamazoo.
They asked the courts to temporarily exempt them from the requirement while their case makes its way through the courts.
On Friday, a three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit denied the request, reaffirming an earlier ruling.
Earlier this week, Priests for Life announced that the Supreme Court would meet in September to consider hearing its appeal.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.