Justices say college doesn't have to comply with Obamacare mandate
The decision favoring Wheaton College outside Chicago is only temporary
Wheaton is an educational institution, a religious charity previously won a similar ruling
NEW: Three justices issue sharp dissent to Thursday's decision
A Chicago-area evangelical college won a temporary victory at the Supreme Court on Thursday over an Obamacare requirement that religious non-profits provide contraception insurance to their workers.
Wheaton College objected to potential fines if it refused to provide coverage or sign a release form, saying that doing so would be morally wrong. The court said it didn’t have to do either for now.
The requirement in the health law championed by President Barack Obama has been challenged broadly by groups that oppose abortion.
Earlier this week, the justices ruled 5-4 the government cannot force certain for-profit companies to offer contraception coverage under Obamacare.
The court decision staying enforcement in the Wheaton case only gives the school a pass until the matter is decided by lower courts.
Still, it represents an important victory for those objecting to the socially-charged requirement and follows a similar high court ruling last year for a religious charity, the Little Sisters of the Poor.
The mandate stemmed from a compromise between the Obama administration and religous-based non-profits like hospitals and faith-based universities that oppose birth control.
It would make contraceptives available under the Affordable Care Act with no co-pay but give those entities a work-around through health plans written by third parties.
Three justices sharply dissented from Thursday’s decision, including Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan.
“It is not the business of this court to ensnare itself in the government’s ministerial handling of its affairs in the manner it does here,” Sotomayor said.
The contraception issue has been a major sticking point of Obamacare, which has been the subject of enormous legal and political controversy.
The Supreme Court majority in the Wheaton case made clear it has not decided the larger legal and constitutional issues, but merely acted on the enforcement question.
The issue could be presented to the justices in coming months for final review.
Wheaton is a private Christian liberal arts school located in a Chicago suburb, and is represented in court by the Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty.