By Dave Andrusko
Acting at the request of an order of nuns in Colorado, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a temporary injunction New Year’s Eve against enforcement of a component of ObamaCare that forces employers, including religious groups, to provide health coverage for drugs and procedures to which they have moral or religious objections. The order came hours before this provision of ObamaCare took effect.
Sotomayor’s order applies only to the nuns–the Little Sisters of the Poor which operates nursing homes for the poor around the world–and to other Roman Catholic nonprofit groups that use the same health plan, the Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust.
Sotomayor gave the government until 10 a.m. EST Friday to respond to her order.
The groups’ lawsuit is one of scores of lawsuits against the mandate.
“We are delighted with the ruling,” said Mark L. Rienzi, a lawyer at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, who represented the nuns in the lawsuit. “The Little Sisters are an order of Catholic nuns whose religious faith leads them to devote their lives to caring for the elderly poor. Not surprisingly, they have sincere and undisputed religious objections to complying with this Mandate,” Rienzi said.
Without the order, Rienzi said late Tuesday, the nuns would have been forced to comply with the mandate “or face large fines.”
Justice Sotomayor’s order came hours after the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, in Denver, denied the nuns’ request for a preliminary injunction. Because she is the justice who has oversight for the 10th Circuit, the motion for a stay went to Sotomayor.
“The groups want the mandate halted while the court considers a legal challenge, brought by the for-profit company Hobby Lobby, arguing that the requirement violates their religious liberties,” according to NBC News.
By contrast the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued an emergency stay for the Catholic-affiliated groups challenging the provision.
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear two lawsuits challenging the mandate which are regulations adopted by the Department of Health and Human Services under a provision of ObamaCare.
In the Hobby Lobby case the plaintiffs prevailed in obtaining an injunction. In the second case Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp was denied an injunction.
This represented the first legal challenge to ObamaCare to reach the Supreme Court since it upheld the law’s “individual mandate” 18 months ago. Oral arguments in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius are expected to be held in March with a possible ruling by late June.