The Obama administration urged the Supreme Court on Friday to reject a lawsuit filed by the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Roman Catholic nuns challenging requirements for many employers to provide health insurance coverage for birth control or face penalties under the new health care law.
The Justice Department said the requirements did not impose a “substantial burden” on the nuns’ exercise of religion because they could “opt out” of the obligation by certifying that they had religious objections to such coverage. The Little Sisters “need only self-certify that they are nonprofit organizations that hold themselves out as religious and have religious objections to providing coverage for contraceptive services,” the administration said in a brief filed with the Supreme Court by the solicitor general, Donald B. Verrilli Jr. In addition, he said, the nuns would need to send a copy of the certification to an entity that administers their health plan, Christian Brothers Services.
On Tuesday night, hours before the contraceptive coverage requirements were to take effect, Justice Sonia Sotomayor of the Supreme Court temporarily blocked the Obama administration from enforcing them with respect to the nuns and certain other religious groups. The Little Sisters of the Poor operate nursing homes for poor people in the United States and around the world.
In its filing with the court on Friday, the administration said the nuns “have no legal basis to challenge the self-certification requirement or to complain that it involves them in the process of providing contraceptive coverage.”
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