A U.S. appeals court in St. Louis ruled Thursday that the Affordable Care Act's mandate of birth-control coverage for employees violates nonprofit faith groups' religious freedom, setting up a potential Supreme Court clash, the Associated Press and The Washington Post report.
The decision by a three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals runs counter to rulings by seven other federal appeals courts that an opt-out provision enacted by the Obama administration last year sufficiently protects faith groups' religious liberty. Such splits typically compel the Supreme Court to step in and settle the matter.
The provision allows faith-affiliated hospitals, schools, and charities to state in writing a moral objection to providing contraceptive care, at which point the government or third-party insurers will provide such coverage. The 8th Circuit judges agreed with the plaintiffs, including Christian colleges in Missouri, Michigan, and Iowa, that even with that accommodation, the law makes religious organizations complicit in providing birth control, in violation of their creed.