Supreme Court delays health law's birth control mandate

Justice Sonia Sotomayor decides to block implementation of contraceptive coverage hours before it went into effect
Associated Press
Jan 1, 2014

The Supreme Court has thrown a hitch into President Barack Obama's new health care law by blocking a requirement that some religion-affiliated organizations provide health insurance that includes birth control.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor late Tuesday night decided to block implementation of the contraceptive coverage requirement, only hours before the law's insurance coverage went into effect on New Year's Day.

Her decision, which came after federal court filings by Catholic-affiliated groups from around the nation in hopes of delaying the requirements, throws a part of the president's signature law into temporary disarray. At least one federal appeals court agreed with Sotomayor, issuing its own stay against part of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

The White House on Wednesday issued a statement saying that the administration is confident that its rules "strike the balance of providing women with free contraceptive coverage while preventing non-profit religious organizations with religious objections to contraceptive coverage from having to contract, arrange, pay, or refer for such coverage."

Sotomayor acted on a request from an organization of Catholic nuns in Denver, the Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged. Its request for an emergency stay had been denied earlier in the day by a federal appeals court.

The government is "temporarily enjoined from enforcing against applicants the contraceptive coverage requirements imposed by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act," Sotomayor said in the order.

Sotomayor, who was in New York Tuesday night to lead the final 60-second countdown and push the ceremonial button to signal the descent of the Times Square New Year's Eve ball, gave government officials until 10 a.m. EST Friday to respond to her order. A decision on whether to make the temporary injunction permanent or dissolve it likely won't be made before then.

"The government has lots of ways to deliver contraceptives to people," said Mark Rienzi, a lawyer for the nuns. "It doesn't need to force nuns to participate."

Under the health care law, most health insurance plans have to cover all FDA-approved contraceptives as preventive care for women. That means the coverage is provided free of charge.

Churches and other houses of worship are exempt from the birth control requirement, but affiliated institutions that serve the general public are not. That includes charitable organizations, universities and hospitals.

The requirement prompted an outcry from religious groups, which led the administration to try to craft a compromise. Under that compromise, insurers or health plan administrators must provide birth control coverage, and the religious institution itself is not responsible.

But the administration's compromise did not satisfy some critics, who called it a fig leaf.

The nuns would have to sign a form authorizing their insurance company to provide contraceptive coverage, which would still violate their beliefs, Rienzi said.

"Without an emergency injunction, Mother Provincial Loraine Marie Maguire has to decide between two courses of action: (a) sign and submit a self-certification form, thereby violating her religious beliefs; or (b) refuse to sign the form and pay ruinous fines," Rienzi said.

The Little Sisters operate homes for the elderly poor in the United States and around the world. They were joined in their lawsuit by religious health benefit providers, Christian Brothers Services and Christian Brothers Employee Benefits Trust.

Sotomayor's decision to delay the contraceptive portion of the law was joined by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which also issued an emergency stay for Catholic-affiliated groups challenging the contraceptive provision, including the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., and Catholic University.

But one judge on the three-judge panel that made the decision, Judge David S. Tatel, said he would have denied their motion.

"Because I believe that appellants are unlikely to prevail on their claim that the challenged provision imposes a 'substantial burden' under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, I would deny their application for an injunction pending appeal," Tatel said.

The archdiocese praised the appeals court's action in a statement.

"This action by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is in line with the rulings of courts all across the country which have held that the HHS mandate imposes a substantial and impermissible burden on the free exercise of religion," the archdiocese said. "These decisions also vindicate the pledge of the U.S. Catholic bishops to stand united in resolute defense of the first and most sacred freedom — religious liberty."

The Supreme Court already has decided to rule on whether businesses may use religious objections to escape a requirement to cover birth control for employees. That case, which involves Hobby Lobby Inc., an Oklahoma City-based arts and crafts chain with 13,000 full-time employees, is expected to be argued in March and decided by summer.




The separation of church and state is a paramount belief set out by our founding fathers.

The Big Dog's back

It was so the church wouldn't make our country a theocracy.


Re: "It was so the church wouldn't make our country a theocracy."

Musta been on Bizarro World.

'Cause on Earth, it was the other way around. In England the monarch took over and headed the church.

See: Henry VIII

John Harville

Yeah. And Catholics were banned for nearly 120 years on penalty of death. Thus "the 12 days of Christmas".

But what is your point?


Re: "But what is your point?"

You CAN read can't you? Follow the thread.

John Harville

Following the thread, Godtango.
Henry VIII destroyed the monasteries and churches and took their money for the government - and extreme tax - then outlawed their existence because the pope wouldn't grant him a divorce from his wife so he cold marry the babe he'd been doing...who literally lost her head for the king. Then his son Edward (born of another woman who fortunately...for her... died) continued Henry's ways against Catholics until he was slowly poisoned.
Then his daughter Mary restored Catholicism and kept the Smithfield fires burning with Protestant fat.
Then his daughter Elizabeth I restored Protestantism, outlawed Catholicism, killed her cousin Mary of Scotland, then put Mary's very homosexual son James VI of Scotland on England's throne as James I (who commissioned the King James Version of the Bible to try to buy his way into heaven) and fathered Charles I who lost his head to the Puritans and Oliver Cromwell.
Now, again, what was your point?


Re: "now, again, what was your point?"

G-o-t-t-a s-p-e-l-l i-t o-u-t f-o-r y-o-u e-h?

"It was so the church wouldn't make our country a theocracy."

- The Big Dog's back, 01/01/2014 - 8:54pm

Better see the First Amend. Sport:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;"

John Harville

CONGRESS being the key word.
When the Puritans came to the new land, the first thing they did was establish a theocracy.
The Constitution makes no reference to God or religion.
The Bill of Rights was to assure the rights of the states without FEDERAL interference. Thus CONGRESS. The AHCA makes no prohibition on any religion - which the court will find. It DOES guarantee health care without discrimination for employees of any company/corporation not founded on specific religious statements. Personal religion of owners is not protected. Congress can protect employees from discrimination because they have a religion/no religion different than the employer.
An employer cannot withhold - on the basis of religion - health care that may include contraceptives (they are used for women who have uterine/ovarian issues to avoid surgical procedures.

John Harville

so... "one nation, under God," does not establish religion, especially when young children have no understanding?

"In God We Trust" does not establish a national religion?

The First Amendment DOES allow individual states to ESTABLISH a state religion... yes?... or prohibit the practice of certain religions? Is THAT what they meant?

Pterocarya frax...

And since a lot of churches can't seem to keep their noses out of politics, we need to start taxing them.


Re: " we need to start taxing them."


'Specially those southern black churches where the Dems go politicking.


"Eric Holder, IRS officials coached tax-exempt black ministers on how to engage in political activity"


Re: " we need to start taxing them." The reason for tax exemption is to deny the state its one method of control- through the use of taxation. The Church in America was to be left absolutely free from influence- a moral compass and voice concerning the operation of Government. The Supreme Court understood this (Walz v. tax commission) Quote: In Walz v. Tax Commission, the Supreme Court noted that the church’s “uninterrupted freedom from taxation” has “operated affirmatively to help guarantee the free exercise of all forms of religious belief.” The much misunderstood “separation between church and state” is in truth designed to restrict the sovereignty of each over the other. That is, it is designed to achieve a position for each that is neither master nor servant of the other. Exemption from income taxation is essential for respect of the church as a separate sovereign entity. Otherwise the government has the power to encumber and even terminate churches if such taxes are not punctually paid or cannot be so paid in full. Indeed, as the high court noted many years ago, “the power to tax involves the power to destroy.”


"The power to tax involves the power to destroy,"

- Chief Justice John Marshall

John Harville

"CONGRESS shall make no law..." does not exempt churches from state and local taxation.
The Tenth Amendment leaves to states the power to tax.
Churches and other faith-based groups hide behind their 'religion' to carry on political activities.
Now for-profit corporations (which are people, remember when it comes to political contribution) want to use their 'religion' to avoid providing preventative health care for women (cancer screenings, breast exams, cancer surgeries, other medical issues) in the name of being 'anti-abortion' (which they classify as keeping sperm from fertilizing egg). Soon they'll want to outlaw masturbation, cunnilingus, hetero anal.... which all also are 'abortion' in the purest sense.
Churches claim they should not have to provide ACA healthcare to employees in their hospitals, nursing homes, healthcare centers, etc. but still have the right to bill Medicare, Medicaid etc. for services they provide.
Tax their institutions or remove their Medicare/Medicaid privileges - which, of course, penalizes patients.
Tax the churches - including those predominantly Black/Hispanic churches who promote Pews to Polls Sunday voting.


Re: "The Tenth Amendment leaves to states the power to tax."

Forgetting the 16th?

It gave the Feds the power to cross state lines and directly steal from citizens.

John Harville

The tenth, then, has been negated by the 16th? And the 14th? etc.?


Actually churches are exempt from taxation pursuant to the free exercise clause of the First Amendment. Government cannot regulate religion and taxation is a form of regulation. If one is to start taxing churches, than all non profits must be taxed.


Re: "Actually churches are exempt from taxation pursuant to the free exercise clause of the First Amendment."

And some states and locales required the funding of churches through taxation.

If a church or NGO loses it's not-for-profit status, all income becomes taxable.


Example of a state or locale in the US that directly funds a church in the US through taxation?

And yes if an entity violates 501(c)(3) requirements for non profit status, then the entity loses its non profit status. So take your argument about black churches in the South engaged in politics to the IRS.


Re: "Example"

Note word "required" (past tense).

See: U.S. History.

H*ll, Gen. Washington "required" his officers to attend religious services.


Re: "So take your argument about black churches in the South engaged in politics to the IRS."

With the current progressives in the WH? Yea right.


You stated some states and locales required the funding of churches through taxation. I asked for an example of a state or locale that required funding of churches by taxation. Gen. Washington's church requirement during the Revolutionary War isn't an example of a state or locale supporting a church through taxation.

Re: Tax exemption and black churches. So you don't want to take action (exercise your 1st Amendment right to petition the government for redress) to try to change things, you'd just rather make unsupported comments (exercise your 1st Amendment Free expression clause right)about politics on a blog. That's productive!


Re: "I asked for an example of a state or locale that required funding of churches by taxation."

Be sure to let me know if also need help with operating a search engine and I’ll see what I can do.

Google: “Established Churches in Colonial Times.”


The progressives in DC are already aware of it and prefer the status quo.

Fired off an email to my U.S. rep. the other day regarding a tax issue.


"Colonial Times" predates the formation of the country. So your search results are not relevant.

Good for you on the email concerning the tax issue.


Re: 'Colonial Times' predates the formation of the country."

However "U.S. History" includes that period.

Keep researching Sport, it's there.


Contango, just admit you made an unsupported factual statement and enjoy quibbling over semantics to distract from the weakness of your argument. You are a poor verbal dancer. Gosh is that you Bill Clinton?


Re: "weakness of your argument."

Obviously like most lazy students today, you prefer to be fed and can't do the work yourself.

See: "Religion and the Founding of the American Republic" (V. Religion and the State Government.)

Hopefully you're literate and I won't need to read it to you.


LOL, I'm a lazy student?! You appear to be a typical self aggrandizing/ self-taught internet social isolationist who refuses to offer support for his/her factual statements and then resorts to insults when called out on your intellectual dishonesty.

John Harville

Actually many/most churches are 501(c)(3) corporations to assure tax-exempt status to cover all their events (ice cream socials, catering, dinners) that are open to public for income production. It's also necessary for obtaining mortgages for building programs etc.
However, 501c3 cannot engage in ANY form of political action.


I agree with Ptero and Contango. Churches should absolutely be taxed. If they are going to try to continually exert sovereignty over other public entities via politics, then they have chosen to not play by the rules the legislative branch set up on their behalf.


Re: "Churches should absolutely be taxed."

Eliminate the 16th Amend. and it won't be an issue.