#HobbyLobby strikes again: SCOTUS stabs at contraception mandate
Obama’s big government health care takeover has taken another hit—albeit a small one—to its provisions mandating the coverage of contraception.
Notre Dame v. Burwell seemed dead last year, when the Seventh Circuit threw out a lawsuit laying out the University of Notre Dame’s religious objections to Obamacare’s contraception mandate. Notre Dame brought their objection in the wake of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which allowed religious organizations to opt out of the mandate and pass responsibility for paying the costs of contraception to insurance companies. The institution argued that this still placed a burden on exempt religious institutions, because even when opting out, those institutions still have to authorize the coverage.
The last time the Seventh Circuit considered this case, SCOTUS had not yet ruled in the landmark Hobby Lobby case, which authorized closely held corporations to seek religious exemptions from the contraception mandate.
The Seventh Circuit ruled that Notre Dame failed to show a sufficient burden against the rights of religious institutions; but SCOTUS has now tossed out that ruling completely, and have ordered the appeals court to review the case in light of the Hobby Lobby ruling.
Mark Rienzi, a lawyer with the religious rights group Becket Fund for Religious Liberty who has been involved in similar cases, said Monday’s action was “a strong signal that the Supreme Court will ultimately reject the government’s narrow view of religious liberty.”
The court threw out a February 2014 appeals court ruling denying Notre Dame an injunction against the requirement.
The appeals court ruling pre-dated the Supreme Court’s June 2014 ruling saying family-owned Hobby Lobby Stores Ltd could seek exemptions on religious grounds from the contraception provision.
Days later, in a case similar to the Notre Dame dispute, the justices allowed an Illinois college a temporary exemption while litigation continues.
Last August, the government amended its compromise plan for nonprofits with religious affiliations, meaning the legal landscape has changed substantially since the appeals court ruled against Notre Dame.
The Seventh Circuit’s first ruling was a sidestep; this ruling, however, will have to tackle a completely new and different standard. The government has largely come out on top in the post-Hobby Lobby world, mostly because the Court has found that in each case, the RFRA compromise did not pose enough of a burden on the rights of religious institutions.
You have to wonder how far the Supreme Court will allow this particular argument to go—is an employer constitutionally justified in demanding that an insurer not cover contraception for the employees of a religious institution?
If this one comes sailing right back to the Supreme Court, I don’t think anyone will be shocked.
h/t Hot Air
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This is not in the least surprising. It’s kind of routine for SCOTUS to send back cases for reconsideration when a mojor element has been changed by a new SCOTUS ruling.
Heaven help you, though, if you decide you don’t want to bake a cake for someone because of your deeply-held religious beliefs.
Follow-up…does this mean bakers should become churches that do baked goods?