The Little Sisters of the Poor were hoping for a resolution to their years-long fight for religious freedom. What they got today was the second best thing: the U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimous agreement that the president needs to change his approach to the Obamacare mandate. In a surprise announcement today, the eight justices sent the nuns’ case back to the lower courts, where it hopes a better solution will be reached for religious groups like Little Sisters of the Poor, Priests for Life, and other religious schools.
In the meantime, the Court delivered a huge win on one point: the plaintiffs will be shielded from the millions of dollars in government fines in the process. “Given the gravity of the dispute and the substantial clarification and refinement in the positions of the parties,” the justices wrote, “the parties on remand should be afforded an opportunity to arrive at an approach going forward that accommodates petitioners’ religious exercise while at the same time ensuring that women covered by petitioners’ health plans ‘receive full and equal health coverage, including contraception coverage.'”
As FRC’s Travis Weber explained, this means the justices agreed that government needs to modify its approach to accommodate the objectors’ position. That’s tremendous news for the religious freedom of the Little Sisters and others. For these faith-based groups, which were staring down crippling fines, the relief is palpable. And while the case is far from over (the lower courts will still need to rule on the administration’s phony “compromise” that sends objectionable payments through a third party), FRC is cautiously optimistic.
No one — not nuns, not business owners, or everyday Americans — should be faced with the choice of violating their beliefs or paying ridiculous penalties to exercise them. For now, we’re hopeful that the lower courts will also respect their religious freedom and come up with a mutually acceptable solution that doesn’t force the involvement of the Little Sisters and other groups into the administration’s scheme.
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