News Law and Policy

Supreme Court Considering Request to Extend Hobby Lobby Ruling to Nonprofits (Updated)

Jessica Mason Pieklo

Wheaton College, a religiously affiliated nonprofit, has asked for an emergency order exempting it from complying with the accommodation to the contraception benefit in the Affordable Care Act.

UPDATE, July 3, 5:05 p.m.: Late Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled Wheaton College could receive the religious accommodation to the birth control benefit. Like the Court did last year in the Little Sisters of the Poor case, the Court created an alternative to filling out the EBSA Form 700, which is at the heart of the nonprofits’ legal challenge.

Read more of our coverage on the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood cases here.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule soon on a request by a religiously affiliated nonprofit to find that even with its accommodation, the birth control benefit in the Affordable Care Act violates the organization’s religious liberties.

Wheaton College, a religiously affiliated college located in Illinois, filed the request in the wake of Monday’s ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, asking the Roberts Court to issue an emergency ruling exempting the organization from complying with the law. Like other religiously affiliated nonprofits challenging the accommodation, Wheaton College argues that the process laid out by the Obama administration to receive the accommodation is too burdensome. In that process, an objecting institution files a form with the government to request the exemption on the grounds of a sincerely held religious belief. Once that form is filed, a third-party insurer steps in and coordinates coverage for those employees or students who want it.

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But, according to Wheaton College and other nonprofits like Little Sisters of the Poor and the University of Notre Dame, the mere act of filing out the exemption form that triggers third-party administration of the coverage imposes a substantial burden on its religious beliefs.

On Monday, the Roberts Court granted Wheaton College a temporary delay of the July 1 deadline for the college to either take advantage of the accommodation or comply with the ACA’s coverage requirements. By midweek, the Obama administration responded to Wheaton College’s request in a brief filed with the Court, arguing its accommodation sufficiently protects any religious objections Wheaton College or other nonprofits have to the coverage requirements and urging the Supreme Court to reject Wheaton’s request.

The college is expected to file a brief replying to the administration’s arguments on Thursday. The Roberts Court has already indicated that its ruling in Burwell applies to the birth control benefit generally.

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