Perhaps it’s a positive development. The Becket Fund is calling it a win for the Little Sisters of the Poor. First, the news from CNN,
Washington (CNN) The Supreme Court on Monday avoided issuing a major ruling on a challenge brought by religiously affiliated non-profit groups to the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate.
The justices, in a unanimous decision, wrote that they were not deciding the case on the merits but instead sent the case back down to the lower courts for opposing parties to work out a compromise.
The decision to send the case back to the appellate level appears to be a direct impact of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February. Scalia, a stalwart conservative, would likely have ruled against the Obama administration.
In its ruling Monday, the court said it is not deciding whether the religious exercise of the challengers has been substantially “burdened.”
“When all is said and done, the challengers may well get what they want — not having to directly provide contraceptive coverage against their religious beliefs,” Vladeck said. “But if the court gets its way, that will be the result of a pragmatic compromise, not a legal ruling about the balance between individual rights and religious freedom.”
Here’s what the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is saying, “The Sisters Say ‘Yes’ To SCOTUS Solution.”
Less than a week after the Supreme Court heard the case of the Little Sisters of the Poor (Zubik v. Burwell), the Court made an unprecedented move asking both sides to provide additional arguments about whether the government could find ways to distribute contraceptives without the involvement of religious non-profits and their health plans.
The Little Sisters had been saying since the case began that there were many other ways for the government to meet all of its goals without using the Little Sisters’ plan. So, when the Court asked if there were other ways and if the Little Sisters would accept them, “Yes” was an easy and obvious answer.
The government has many ways to achieve its goals and has admitted as much in its initial briefing and its response to the Supreme Court compromise.
In a surprise move Monday, the Supreme Court punted on the case and, in a unanimous ruling, essentially told the lower courts to find a way to accommodate the Little Sisters so their conscience rights would not be violated. The Supreme Court sent the case back to lower courts to examine an alternative accommodation to the mandate.