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Supreme Court to review Trump’s religious exemptions to Obamacare mandate

Supreme Court to review Trump's religious exemptions to Obamacare mandate

Sister Loraine McGuire with Little Sisters of the Poor speaks to the media after Zubik v. Burwell, an appeal brought by Christian groups demanding full exemption from the requirement to provide insurance covering contraception under the Affordable Care Act, was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington March 23, 2016. | (Photo: Reuters/Joshua Roberts)

The Little Sisters of the Poor will head back to the U.S. Supreme Court as the justices review a federal appellate court decision striking down a Trump administration rule giving religious organizations the ability to opt-out of an Affordable Care Act mandate that requires employers to cover birth control and abortifacients.

The Supreme Court announced Friday that it will hear two challenges dealing with the Trump administration’s measures that make it easier for employers with moral objections to obtain exemptions in health care plans.

The court will deal with Trump v. Pennsylvania and Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania. The Little Sisters of the Poor is an order of Catholic nuns who care for the elderly. 

The organization had previously gone before the Supreme Court in its effort to win an exemption from the Department of Health and Human Services mandate, which the nuns said forced them to violate Catholic teachings against abortion.

In 2016, the Supreme Court vacated two lower court rulings against the organization. 

Under the Trump administration, the federal government stopped fighting the legal battle and the HSS enacted rules, making it easier for nonprofit and for-profit companies (except publicly traded companies) to request an exemption from the mandate.

The Little Sisters of the Poor and its attorneys with the legal nonprofit Becket will have to argue again that such a requirement violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. 

A lawsuit was filed by the Commonwealth in 2017 against the mandate. Last July, the Third Circuit ruled in favor of Pennsylvania.

“It is disappointing to think that as we enter a new decade we must still defend our ministry in court,” Mother Loraine Marie Maguire said in a statement. “We are grateful the Supreme Court has decided to weigh in, and hopeful that the Justices will reinforce their previous decision and allow us to focus on our lifelong work of serving the elderly poor once and for all.”

Becket President Mark Rienzi said in a statement that Pennsylvania “needs to give it a rest.” 

“Why is Pennsylvania still trying to fight tired and unnecessary culture wars that were settled years ago?” Rienzi asked. “There are plenty of ways to provide people with contraceptives without forcing Catholic nuns to participate. It’s too bad that…

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