Little Sisters of the Poor

The Supreme Court late this afternoon blocked federal officials from forcing some Roman Catholic charities to provide employee health insurance that provides “free” contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs, despite objections on religious grounds.

The entire high court extended temporary relief that Justice Sonia Sotomayor granted on New Year’s Eve to the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of nuns whose housing program serves the elderly poor but whose faith ran afoul of Obamacare’s mandatory coverage provisions.

“The injunction means that the Little Sisters will not be forced to sign and deliver the controversial government forms authorizing and instructing their benefits administrator to provide contraceptives, sterilization, and drugs and devices that may cause early abortions,” the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, whose attorneys represent the nuns, said on its website. “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.”

The mandate by the Department of Health and Human Services is one of the most disputed provisions of Obamacare, as opponents say it tramples religious freedom. The Little Sisters are among dozens of religious and faith-based employers that have challenged the HHS mandate in 91 separate lawsuits, saying it forces them to choose between violating their faith or paying huge per-employee fines.

“By the Obama administration’s reasoning, faith is restricted to formal houses of worship,” said Heritage Foundation policy analyst Sarah Torre, who has written extensively on the HHS mandate. “Step outside the four walls of your home or place of worship to serve the needy, teach the next generation or care for the elderly, and protection of your religious freedom end.”

“The Supreme Court’s order is at least a temporary win for the Little Sisters,” added Elizabeth Slattery, a senior legal policy analyst at Heritage. “It preserves the status quo while a lower court continues their challenge to the mandate.”

This story was produced by The Foundry’s news team. Nothing here should be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of The Heritage Foundation.