Catholic Employers Claim That Filling Out an Obamacare Form Violates Their Religious Freedom

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
Jan. 2 2014 11:23 AM

Catholic Employers Claim That Filling Out an Obamacare Form Violates Their Religious Freedom

459844035
Just before presiding over the Times Square ball drop, Justice Sonia Sotomayor granted a temporary injunction to groups that object to filling out a piece of paper saying they don't offer contraception coverage.

Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

Late on New Year's Eve, Justice Sonia Sotomayor granted a small number of religiously affiliated groups a temporary injunction from a provision in the Affordable Care Act that allows them not to cover contraception in their health care plans if they fill out a form that states that they want an exemption from the law for religious reasons. Go ahead and read that sentence again. These Catholic nonprofits that wanted an exemption from covering their employees' contraception needs—and got an exemption from covering their employees' contraception needs—are now fighting the provision (that exempts them from covering their employees' contraception needs) simply because they don't want to have to fill out a form that states that they are exempt. Why? Because their employees need that form in order to get birth control directly from their insurers (which they need to do because their employers—these Catholic non-profits—are exempt, as they want to be). 

That's right: These groups are arguing that filling out a form is a violation of their religious freedom and that "religious freedom" means that you should have control over your employee's health care decisions even when they happen outside of the insurance coverage you directly provide for them. Even the lawyer for one of the groups, the Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged, admits that this lawsuit is about trying to weasel out of nothing more onerous than signing a piece of paper. "Without an emergency injunction," Mark Rienzi told the Associated Press, "Mother Provincial Loraine Marie Maguire has to decide between two courses of action: (a) sign and submit a self-certification form, thereby violating her religious beliefs; or (b) refuse to sign the form and pay ruinous fines." And a spokeswoman for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, lead counsel for the Little Sisters, said, "The government has lots of ways to deliver contraceptives to people. It doesn't need to force the nuns to participate." The problem is that the government agrees and has set up a system so that the nuns can opt out. The nuns refuse to opt out, however, because opting out on paper will allow their employees to get that contraception coverage.

Advertisement

It's important not to read too much in Sotomayor's willingness to grant these groups a temporary injunction from signing a piece of paper. The injunction is only to allow the status quo to continue until the case gets heard in court. That won't be great for the employees of these groups, who will have to continue without employer-provided contraception coverage and will also be unable to get coverage directly from their insurance companies, but it doesn't necessarily mean that the court is siding with the Sisters on this one.

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer and DoubleX contributor. She also writes regularly for the Daily Beast, AlterNet, and USA Today. Follow her on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

Technocracy

Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

The Congressional Republican Digging Through Scientists’ Grant Proposals

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Whole Foods Is Desperate for Customers to Feel Warm and Fuzzy Again

The XX Factor

I’m 25. I Have $250.03.

My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.

The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I’m 25. I Have $250.03. My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.
Politics

Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

George Tiller’s Murderer Threatens Another Abortion Provider, Claims Free Speech

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 21 2014 3:13 PM Why Countries Make Human Rights Pledges They Have No Intention of Honoring
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 21 2014 1:12 PM The Global Millionaires Club Is Booming and Losing Its Exclusivity
  Life
The Vault
Oct. 21 2014 2:23 PM A Data-Packed Map of American Immigration in 1903
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 21 2014 3:03 PM Renée Zellweger's New Face Is Too Real
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 21 2014 1:02 PM Where Are Slate Plus Members From? This Weird Cartogram Explains. A weird-looking cartogram of Slate Plus memberships by state.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 1:47 PM The Best Way to Fry an Egg
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 21 2014 10:43 AM Social Networking Didn’t Start at Harvard It really began at a girls’ reform school.
  Health & Science
Climate Desk
Oct. 21 2014 11:53 AM Taking Research for Granted Texas Republican Lamar Smith continues his crusade against independence in science.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.