Obama 'pleased' with SCOTUS decision on religious freedom case

The Supreme Court has punted on the issue of religious freedom for non-profits who refuse to be involved in supplying their employees with contraception.  The court sent the case, Zubik v. Burwellback to the lower courts and ordered the parties to find a compromise.

The suit was brought by the Little Sisters of the Poor and several other religious non-profits who said the Obamacare contraception mandate interferred with the free exercise of their religious beliefs.

While the case is under review by the appellate court, female employees will be allowed access to contraception.

Lyle Denison of SCOTUS Blog thinks this is a compromise that works.

Without settling any legal issues surrounding the Affordable Care Act’s birth-control mandate, the Supreme Court on Monday nevertheless cleared the way for the government to promptly provide no-cost access to contraceptives for employees and students of non-profit religious hospitals, charities, and colleges, while barring any penalties on those institutions for failing to provide that access themselves.  Thirteen separate cases were sent back to federal appeals courts for them to issue new rulings on the questions the Justices left undecided.  One immediate issue is how soon the government can work out the technical arrangements to provide actual access to the contraceptive benefits.

The Court largely shifted to six federal appeals courts the task of ruling on the mandate’s legality — the task that the Court had agreed last November to take on itself in seven of the cases.  Five appeals courts had ruled in favor of the mandate, and one had ruled against.  All were ordered to re-think those outcomes in the wake of new positions that the two sides in the controversy had made in recent filings in the pending Supreme Court cases.

The Court acted through a per curiam (“by the Court”) opinion — announced in the Courtroom by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. — dealing with the cases the Court was reviewing, along with three orders extending the effect of that opinion to six other cases that the Court had not yet agreed to hear.  Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, wrote separately to stress that the Court had not decided any of the legal questions it considered in the cases, under the lead case’s title, Zubik v. Burwelland to caution lower courts not to read anything into the new opinion and orders about where the Court stands.

I am dubious that this case is going to turn out well unless a conservative justice is named by a Republican president next year.  The fact is, the religious groups in the case are arguing that the government's offer to allow third-party funding of contraception is beside the point.  Any "compromise" that requires that religious orders and non-profit religious schools and institutions to go against the fundamental tenets of their faith is an affront to religious liberty.  The government may think this kind of workaround should assuage the consciences of the religious groups.  But it's not about keeping the Little Sisters of the Poor from sinning.  The stand taken by the non-profits goes to the core of what the free exercise of religion is in America. 

Obama and liberals on the courts are trying to trash that notion.

There is no compromise that wouldn't violate the rights of the religious non-profits.  Because of that, we can expect this case to return to the Supreme Court in the near future.

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