DENVER – A group of Colorado nuns is appealing a federal appellate court ruling that found that President Barack Obama's health care law adequately protects them from having to provide coverage of contraception for their employees, potentially setting up another combustible debate over birth control and religion in the midst of next year's presidential election.
Attorneys for Little Sisters of the Poor and four Oklahoma Christian colleges announced Thursday that they will appeal last week's ruling from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. A three-judge panel on that court found that the law already accommodates the nonprofits by allowing them to file for an exemption from the contraception mandate. The religious institutions argued that exemption is inadequate because a third party will still end up providing birth control coverage in opposition to their religious beliefs.
"The Sisters consider it immoral to help the government distribute these drugs," Mark Rienzi, senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, who represented the nuns, said in a statement. "But instead of simply exempting them, the government insists that it can take over their ministry's employee healthcare to distribute these drugs to their employees, while dismissing the Sisters' moral objections as irrelevant."
Last year the Supreme Court found that "closely-held" businesses like Hobby Lobby were also exempt from the law's contraception mandate. Those businesses now have access to the exemption that the nuns contend is inadequate.
If the Supreme Court takes up the case it would be heard and decided before the end of June 2016.