Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Alito Gives Dioceses Temporary Victory in Aca Fight

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Alito Gives Dioceses Temporary Victory in Aca Fight

Article excerpt

After a federal appeals court refused their request, the Roman Catholic dioceses of Pittsburgh and Erie immediately went to the Supreme Court and just as swiftly got the answer they sought.

Justice Samuel Alito on Wednesday delayed federal enforcement of a mandate - which had been formalized just hours earlier by the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals - that would have made contraceptives available to workers at the dioceses' charitable agencies under their insurance plans.

The decision by Justice Alito, who hears such petitions from the Third Circuit, maintains the status quo but also signals the growing likelihood of what some are calling "Hobby Lobby II" - a Supreme Court showdown on whether religious non-profits have to comply with the mandate under the Affordable Care Act.

In a similar case last year, headlined by the Hobby Lobby corporation, the Supreme Court found that closely held corporations with religious objections to aspects of the contraception mandate were exempt from it.

Under the Affordable Care Act, churches and other core religious organizations are exempt from the requirement to cover contraceptives under their insurance.

But faith-based organizations such as charities and schools are required to submit a form saying they object. That then triggers a process in which an insurance company provides contraceptive coverage to the workers at its own expense. But the dioceses have argued that even submitting this opt-out form makes them complicit in a "moral evil," given Catholic teaching against using artificial means to block conception.

The U.S. District Court for Western Pennsylvania sided with the dioceses, but in February, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that ruling in favor of enforcing the mandates.

The appeals court ruled that the opt-out form does not make the dioceses complicit and therefore does not substantially burden their exercise of religious freedom. …

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