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The Supreme Court Declines to Decide

May 18, 2016

Contributed by Jess LeDonne

Monday [5/16/16] the U.S. Supreme Court declined to rule on whether the Affordable Care Act’s contractive coverage mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  This unanimous decision settled no legal issues, but instead remanded thirteen cases, which have been litigated for years, back to six different federal appeals courts.  The SCOTUS decision urged that the lower courts not deduce any SCOTUS opinions on the merits of the case, but rather that the federal appeals courts should work to compromise and reconcile the beliefs of nonprofit religious employers with their employees’ rights to no-cost contraceptive coverage.
 
This is not the first time that the highest court has heard a challenge to the contraceptive coverage mandate of the ACA, but it is the first that dealt directly with the Obama administration’s religious accommodations that it generated.  The accommodation for religious employers who object to the mandate was argued to be insufficient, ineffective, and overly burdensome.  Although the unique eight-justice makeup of today’s Supreme Court may well have contributed to the decision, as was speculated by President Obama’s statement that “if we have nine Supreme Court justices instead of eight we might have had a different outcome,” Senate Republicans have shown no interest in holding hearings or a vote on President Obama's nomination of Judge Merrick Garland. 
 
Contributed by Jess LeDonne

 

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