The United States Supreme Court issued an opinion today vacating the decisions of the Courts of Appeals against Priests for Life and the other petitioners who are objecting to the HHS mandate (Priests for Life v. U.S. Dep’t of HHS, part of Zubik v. Burwell).
The Court did not rule on the merits of the arguments, but rather, it sent the matter back to the lower courts with instructions to give the parties enough time to arrive at a solution that both “accommodates petitioners’ religious exercise while at the same time ensur[es] that women covered by petitioners’ health plans ‘receive full and equal health coverage.'”
This is a positive development in that the Court did not affirm the adverse decisions below, but rather vacated them (i.e., rendered them void).
In its opinion, the Court accepts the government’s admission (made in the supplemental briefing that the Supreme Court requested earlier this year) that it can provide these services to women without hijacking Priests for Life’s health plan. The Court’s opinion also forbids the government from imposing fines against Priests for Life even though it is refusing to comply with the objectionable mandate.
In its supplemental briefing, Priests for Life indicated to the Supreme Court that there is a way for the government to pursue its objectives without burdening religious freedom.
Priests for Life is ready to present these new arguments in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and are just as confident as before of the strength of its position.