By: Staff – firstliberty.org – March 10, 2020
Religious Liberty Firm to Supreme Court: End this Assault on Little Sisters of the Poor, Religious Organizations
First Liberty Institute files friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of charity urging Court to preserve religious exemption from ACA’s contraceptive mandate
Washington, DC—First Liberty Institute filed a friend-of-the-court brief in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania urging the Supreme Court of the United States to reverse a lower court ruling prohibiting the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from exempting certain religious objectors from the Affordable Care Act’s Contraceptive Mandate. Without a religious exemption, the Mandate would require the Little Sisters of the Poor—a religious order of nuns—to facilitate contraceptive insurance coverage even though their sincerely held religious beliefs forbid them from doing so.
“It’s long past time for the Supreme Court of the United States to put an end to these efforts to force the Little Sisters of the Poor and other religious objectors to violate their faith,” said Lea Patterson, Counsel for First Liberty Institute. “We are hopeful the Court will uphold the Administration’s respect for the religious liberty of all religious orders and non-profits and reverse the Third Circuit’s dangerous decision.”
In 2017, after multiple legal challenges to the Contraceptive Mandate, the Trump Administration adopted new regulations that expanded protections for religious objectors to the Mandate. But several states, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey, sued the Trump Administration, claiming that the federal government could not consider the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”) in developing its regulations. The states complained that they did not want to pay for the contraception coverage at issue, even though they maintained that the contraception coverage is vitally important to the states’ interests.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled against religious objectors, concluding that the Administration cannot consider RFRA to develop a broad religious exemption from the Contraception Mandate, jeopardizing the hard-won exemptions granted to the nuns and others.
According to First Liberty’s brief, the Third Circuit defied binding precedent and distorted RFRA’s balancing framework by invalidating accommodations the court deemed to potentially pose an “undue burden” to third parties. However, the brief explains, “This ‘undue burden’ standard derives from cases challenging abortion regulations and is entirely foreign to RFRA analysis. By substituting this extraneous standard for RFRA’s compelling interest test, the court turned RFRA’s ‘very broad protection for religious liberty,’ upside down.”
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