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When requesting an exemption from a requirement requires an exemption

January 8, 2014

In several articles recently we have seen details on the case of Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Roman Catholic nuns that is challenging requirements for many employers to provide health insurance coverage for birth control or face penalties under the new health care law.  In this particular case, the nuns are not required to provide birth control coverage, and neither is their insurance company.  But the Little Sisters are claiming that merely the act of certifying that they are not required to provide coverage goes against their freedom of religious expression: they feel that the certification itself (a form that merely informs the government and the Little Sister’s insurance company that they are claiming exemption from the requirement) is too burdensome, even though signing it will not enable any other company to provide contraception coverage to their employees.

It would be interesting if the government changed the law so that merely registering as a religious non-profit organization would trigger the exception, since the results would be exactly the same.  However, if the organization decides not to sign that registration, they would lose their tax-exempt status.  As it stands right now, the Little Sisters (and multiple other organizations) have been granted injunctions against the law so as to not have to pay the associated penalties until the issues are resolved.

ThinkProgress:  article here. “Unlike the Hobby Lobby case, where a business owned by people with religious objections to birth control is suing to avoid having to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees, there is no question in the Colorado case that the plaintiffs do not have to provide birth control to anyone. Every single one of the plaintiffs in the Colorado case qualify for a religious exemption to the birth control rules — indeed, the federal government admits as much.”

New York Times: article here. “The Little Sisters “need only self-certify that they are nonprofit organizations that hold themselves out as religious and have religious objections to providing coverage for contraceptive services,” the administration said in a brief filed with the Supreme Court by the solicitor general, Donald B. Verrilli Jr.”

Americans United: article here.  “At the end of the day, this isn’t about religious freedom. It’s really about the Catholic hierarchy and fundamentalists trying to deny birth control to as many people as possible simply because they don’t think it’s morally right.”

RH Reality Check: article here.  “In short, religiously affiliated nonprofits like Geneva College requested and received a mechanism to opt out of a mandate in the name of religious freedom, but are now claiming that using said mechanism also violates their religious freedom.”


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