College wins U.S. top court temporary exemption on Obamacare birth control

WASHINGTON Thu Jul 3, 2014 6:55pm EDT

Related Topics

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court gave a Christian college in Illinois a temporary exemption from birth control coverage required by President Barack Obama's health reform law, days after ruling that for-profit employers can opt out for religious reasons.

The court said on Thursday in a split 6-3 decision by the justices that Wheaton College, which has objected on religious grounds, did not have to comply with the government compromise process for nonprofit groups with religious affiliations while litigation continues, an unsigned order showed.

On Monday, the court said on a 5-4 vote that closely held for-profit corporations could obtain an exemption based on the religious beliefs of their owners. By granting Wheaton College's request, the court indicated that its decision does not dictate the outcome of litigation involving dozens of nonprofit groups.

Under the healthcare law, known as Obamacare, employers must provide health insurance policies that cover preventive services for women, including contraception and sterilization.

The administration had already crafted a compromise for religious-affiliated nonprofits that allows them to "self-certify" to their insurance carriers in a form that they object, on religious grounds, to providing contraception coverage. But various nonprofits, including Wheaton, said the act of signing the form also infringed on their religious rights.

The court said in its order that the college could instead send a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to state its religious objections. Employers would still be able to obtain contraceptive coverage via their health plans, the court said.

The court reached a similar outcome in January in a case brought by an order of Roman Catholic nuns called the Little Sisters of the Poor.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a dissenting opinion, which was joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Justice Elena Kagan. Sotomayor said the college had failed to meet the requirements for an injunction, adding that "thinking one's religious beliefs are substantially burdened – no matter how sincere or genuine that believe may be – does not make it so."

The unsigned order said the court's action "should not be construed as an expression of the court's views on the merits."

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham and Richard Chang)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see
Comments (53)
donincardona wrote:
this is bullshit. now the court is gonna exempt everybody. what about the constitution? this is all about ideology. term limits on the court.

Jul 03, 2014 6:32pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
scienceburger wrote:
Well then, Justice Sotomayor, what WOULD make one’s religious beliefs “substantially burdened” ?!

Jul 03, 2014 7:35pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
gm1 wrote:
donincardona: This is about religious freedom not ideology. If you don’t like it then go to school/work somewhere else.

Jul 03, 2014 7:40pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.