Jul 04, 2014
The US Supreme Court late Thursday handed religiously affiliated nonprofit groups a big victory in the ongoing battle between 'religious freedom' and women's rights.
The unsigned, provisional ruling exempts Wheaton College in Illinois from the Obamacare contraceptive coverage requirement if the Christian school tells the Obama administration that it objects to providing birth control to its employees and students for religious reasons.
The court's order drew an unusually angry reaction from the 3 female Justices: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. The three women issued a scathing 16-page dissent (.pdf) that sharply criticized the court majority for backtracking on its Hobby Lobby decision last Monday.
The court's 5-4 decision in Burwell v Hobby Lobby provided for-profit corporations with a similar exemption.
"Those who are bound by our decisions usually believe they can take us at our word," Justice Sotomayor wrote. "Not so today."
The court's action, she added, even "undermines confidence in this institution."
"After expressly relying on the availability of the religious-nonprofit accommodation to hold that the contraceptive coverage requirement violates [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act] as applied to closely held for-profit corporations, the Court now, as the dissent in Hobby Lobby feared it might, retreats from that position."
"I do not doubt that Wheaton genuinely believes that signing the self-certification form is contrary to its religious beliefs," wrote Sotomayor. "But thinking one's religious beliefs are substantially burdened - no matter how sincere or genuine that belief may be - does not make it so."
"The issuance of an injunction in this case will presumably entitle hundreds or thousands of other objectors to the same remedy," she said.
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