NRL News

Supreme Court extends injunction barring HHS from enforcing mandate against Little Sisters of the Poor

by | Jan 27, 2014


By Dave Andrusko

Little Sisters of the Poor  Photo Credit: Catholic News Agency

Little Sisters of the Poor
Photo Credit: Catholic News Agency

Last Friday, the Supreme Court extended a temporary injunction barring the Obama administration from enforcing a controversial HHS mandate against the Little Sisters of the Poor and more than 400 other organizations that use the same health benefits provider, Christian Brothers.

A district judge had ruled against the Little Sisters, an order of nuns that employ about 75 people in their ministry to serve the elderly. Their appeal is now before the 10th Circuit. The Supreme Court’s order will remain in effect until that appeals court rules on Little Sisters of the Poor v. Sebelius.

Ninety-one lawsuits have been filed against the law which compels employers, including religious groups, to provide health coverage for drugs and procedures to which they have moral or religious objections. Almost all have received injunctions, except the order of nuns which is based in Colorado.

“We are delighted that the Supreme Court has issued this order protecting the Little Sisters,” said Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel for the Becket Fund. “It made no sense for the Little Sisters to be singled out for fines and punishment before they could even finish their suit.”

On December 31, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who is the Justice assigned for emergency applications from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, issued a temporary injunction to allow the court time to consider the Little Sisters of the Poor’s emergency appeal. (See “Supreme Court Justice issues temporary injunction sought by Little Sisters of the Poor against Obama Mandate”) Her order came just hours after the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit denied the nuns’ request for a preliminary injunction.

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The Little Sisters of the Poor case differs from two cases about which NRL News Today has written extensively—Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp.

As Robert Barnes, writing for the Washington Post, explained

“[T]he legal battle has proceeded on two separate fronts. One involves religious-oriented nonprofit organizations, such as the nuns’, and the other concerns private companies.

“The corporate battle is further along, and the Supreme Court in March will hear two such cases.

“One was brought by the owners of Hobby Lobby, an arts-and-crafts chain that owner David Green says is run on biblical principles.”

The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver said that forcing Hobby Lobby to comply with the mandate “would violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a 1993 law providing special protections for religious expression,” Barnes wrote.

By contrast the lawsuit brought by Conestoga Wood Specialties, a Pennsylvania cabinetmaking company owned by a Mennonite family, went the other way. A divided panel of the 3rd circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the company must comply with the mandate.

“The litigation involving nonprofit organizations is not as far along,” Barnes wrote.

In March the Supreme Court will hear the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties lawsuits.

A decision is possible by late June.

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Categories: Judicial ObamaCare