Another ObamaCare vs. religious liberty case just got closer to the Supreme Court.
A federal court in St. Louis has issued two opinions saying that ObamaCare opt-outs for religiously-affiliated groups still force them to violate their consciences, even though they do not pay directly for the coverage of contraception and abortafacients.
The opinions fly in the face of previous appeals court decisions, but they are aligned with lower court decisions.
The opinions take ObamaCare's contraception mandate and the adjustments to it closer to the Supreme Court.
ObamaCare requires employers to pay for coverage of sterilization and contraception, including a morning after pill that is regarded as an abortafacient. In the latest adjustment offered to religiously-affiliated employers, the administration offered such employers a way not to directly pay for such coverage by signing an opt-out clause.
But many employers have said that signing on to the opt-out document makes them complicit in offering something they find morally questionable or repugnant. Fox News reports:
Christian College and addiction services non-profit CNS International Ministries Inc, both based in Missouri, and Dordt College and Cornerstone University, both in Iowa, filed the lawsuits before the 8th Circuit.
They object to emergency contraceptives, including Plan B from Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd (TEVA.TA), which they believe are equivalent to abortion.
The employers say the opt-out provision violates a 1993 federal law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Circuit Judge Roger Wollman, who wrote Thursday's decisions on behalf of a three-judge panel, said the court must defer to the employers' "sincere religious belief that their participation in the accommodation process.
In a report on Judge Wollman's ruling, the Washington Post explains how the opt-out would work:
To be eligible, a religious organization must certify to its insurance company that it opposes coverage for contraceptives, or it must send a letter to the government saying so and provide the name of its insurance company. The insurers and government take over from there to provide the services.
So, in other words, the organizations must act as facilitator, putting the right parties in touch and setting up the service that they find gravely morally objectionable.
Employers with religious objections have held out, and it is interesting to note that, depending on who is the next president, the next Department of Health and Human Services may be more sympathetic to religious liberty. It is, after all, guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, which will be celebrating its 240th birthday next year.