The Supreme Court on Friday granted a group of Catholic nuns from Colorado a temporary exemption from President Obama's controversial Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare," which requires employers to cover contraceptives in their employees' health care plans.
The Little Sisters of the Poor declared in writing "that they are non-profit organizations that hold themselves out as religious and have religious objections to providing coverage for contraceptive services," and therefore the administration cannot enforce the requirement for contraceptive coverage, said the order issued by the entire Supreme Court.
The court said in its ruling that the religious order of nuns who take care of the needy and dying elderly doesn't have to sign a government form which can authorize a third party to provide the contraceptive coverage under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate.
The court's order also provides protection to more than 400 other Catholic organizations that receive health benefits through the same Catholic benefits provider, Christian Brothers, according to The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.
Prior to Friday's order, injunctions had been awarded in 18 of the 19 similar cases in which relief had been requested, the Washington, D.C.-based Becket Fund said in a statement.
The injunction apparently stays until the final judgment in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Sebelius. "This order should not be construed as an expression of the court's views on the merits" of the case, the court said.
"Virtually every other party who asked for protection from the mandate has been given it," said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel for The Becket Fund, who is representing the nuns. "It made no sense for the Little Sisters to be singled out for fines and punishment before they could even finish their suit."
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins also issued a statement following the court order.
"The Little Sisters of the Poor should not be forced to violate their conscience as a condition of continuing their important work with the poor and the elderly," Perkins said. "This temporary injunction stops HHS from forcing the Little Sisters of the Poor to violate their religious beliefs, pay massive fines or drop coverage altogether."
The mandate's safe harbor for religious groups expired Jan. 1, and it applies to businesses run from a faith perspective. "These employers must now choose between violating their faith, paying crippling fines of up to $100 per day per employee or dropping healthcare coverage for their employees altogether," Perkins said.
"Despite this injunction, the HHS mandate is unfair and should be repealed," the FRC head added.
There are currently 91 lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate, according to The Becket Fund.