Supreme Court sides with religious zealots

Supreme Court Continues To Release Opinions

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled 7-2 upholding President Donald Trump's move to let more employers opt-out of the Affordable Care Act mandate guaranteeing no-cost contraceptive services for women. Christian conservatives, a key constituency for Trump as he seeks re-election on November 3, had strongly opposed the Obamacare mandate. The Trump administration has gone to great lengths to make it more expensive for them to obtain contraceptive coverage. So under the ACA, the Obama administration put contraceptive coverage on a list of preventive health services that most health plans have to cover - they have to offer patients - to patients without a copay or deductible.

"Contraception should not be singled out from the rest of health insurance coverage", said Lourdes Rivera, senior vice president at the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Justice Thomas's opinion takes Burwell v. Hobby Lobby as precedent, arguing that requiring the Little Sisters to fund contraceptives is in direct violation of their religious liberty, as it forces them to be complicit in something directly against their beliefs.

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued two important decisions this week in cases reflecting the ongoing legal tensions between employers' religious liberties and the right of employees to be free from discrimination; and in both cases, SCOTUS tipped the scales decidedly in favor of employers' religious liberties.

The late columnist Charles Krauthammer called it an "accounting trick" that still forced "Catholic (and other religious) institutions to provide medical insurance that guarantees free birth control, tubal ligation and morning-after abortifacients - all of which violate church doctrine on the sanctity of life", the Washington Post reports. "The only question we face today is what the plain language of the statute authorizes", wrote Thomas for the court.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented. The court majority included not only the four conservative justices but also Chief Justice Roberts and two of its four liberals, Justices Breyer and Kagan.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a statement after the ruling, "This fight is not over".

The decision in Little Sisters did not turn, however, on religious rights but on how much latitude federal departments have under the ACA to establish standards of care.

The Trump administration argued on behalf of employers, along with the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic charity that runs homes for the elderly across the country. These two decisions should be read together with the Court's historic decision a few weeks ago on expanding federal employment non-discrimination protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination, an unexpected step of folding LGBTQ people into the sex discrimination protections in federal law. "For the first time in almost a DECADE, the Little Sisters of the Poor & other religious groups can do their good work without fear of being forced to violate their beliefs".

The Court's decision overturned the Third Circuit Court's conclusion that government departments (including Heath and Human Services, Treasury, and Labor) did not have the jurisdiction to allow any exceptions to the regulations forcing companies to provide birth control to their employees. The Trump administration issued new rules that exempted employers with religious and moral objections to complying with the mandate.

In addition, the distribution of contraceptives would cost the Little Sisters of the Poor big money.

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