Colorado

Feb 24, 2014 11:15 PM by Connie Murphy

Colorado nuns file challenge on birth control

DENVER (AP) - Colorado nuns who persuaded the Supreme Court to temporarily block the national health care law's birth control rules spelled out their objections in detail Monday, filing a 74-page appeal in a Denver federal court.

The Little Sisters of the Poor, who operate nursing homes, said a requirement that they provide contraceptive coverage in their employee health plan is contrary to their religious beliefs.

They argue the requirement violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment guarantees on freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

The rule is part of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

A lower court denied the nuns' request to block the rule, but in late December, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor temporarily halted the requirement at the nuns' request.

In January, the Supreme Court agreed to shield the nuns from the requirement while their appeal is heard in the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. In return, the high court asked the nuns to write the Department of Health and Human Services declaring themselves a religious nonprofit organization and making their objection to birth control.

Health and Human Services says the rules accommodate the concerns of religiously affiliated hospitals, universities and social service groups that oppose birth control and still ensure that women in their health plans get access to contraceptive coverage without cost-sharing.

But the nuns and groups like them would have to sign a form authorizing their insurance company to provide contraceptive coverage. The nuns' appeal, spearheaded by attorneys for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, says that still violates their beliefs.

"Regardless of what the trial court and the government think the Little Sisters should believe, the undisputed fact is that they do believe their religion forbids them from signing the form," the appeal says.

It's unclear when the government will file a response and when the 10th Circuit will rule.

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