Justice Dept. defends contraception requirement

Jan. 3, 2014 at 2:06 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 3 (UPI) -- Allowing religious groups to opt out of providing contraception coverage guarantees their religious freedom, lawyers for the U.S. government said Friday.

The Justice Department filed a brief defending the Affordable Care Act's mandatory insurance coverage for birth control, The Hill reported. Justice Sonia Sotomayor set a 10 a.m. deadline for a response when she granted a temporary injunction against enforcement of the requirement earlier this week.

The law exempts churches, religious orders and other specifically religious organizations from providing coverage for contraception. But non-profit organizations like hospitals and schools must ensure coverage is available through insurers, although they do not have to pay for it or provide it themselves.

The Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged in Colorado challenged the provision, saying the law requires them to authorize another party to do something they believe is sinful. They are seeking a permanent injunction.

The government argued the Little Sisters already have what they want.

"With the stroke of their own pen, applicants can secure for themselves the relief they seek from this court -- an exemption from the requirements of the contraceptive-coverage provision," the solicitor general said.

In another case, the owners of Hobby Lobby, an Oklahoma City-based chain of crafts shops, argues that the constitutional guarantee of separation of church and state also protects for-profit corporations.

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