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Little Sisters of the Poor goes back to court to defend religious exemption from HHS contraceptive mandate

(Reuters/Joshua Roberts)Nuns with Little Sisters of the Poor wave after Zubik v. Burwell, an appeal brought by Christian groups demanding full exemption from the requirement to provide insurance covering contraception under the Affordable Care Act, was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, March 23, 2016.

The Little Sisters of the Poor are heading back to court after several states filed a lawsuit against the religious exemption from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate that requires employers to provide coverage for contraceptives in their healthcare plans.

Last month, President Donald Trump's administration issued an executive order providing broad religious exemptions for non-profits like the Little Sisters to protect them from having to pay for contraceptives and abortifacients.

According to Life Site News, the order states that the government will "provide regulatory relief for religious objectors to Obamacare's burdensome preventive services mandate, a position supported by the Supreme Court decision in Hobby Lobby."

Following the release of the executive order, the states of Pennsylvania and California filed a lawsuit in an attempt to take away the religious exemptions from the new HHS rule.

Xavier Becerra, the Attorney General of California, argued that the new rules allow employers to discriminate against employees and "deny them a federally entitled health benefit" by pointing to their religious beliefs.

The Little Sisters, represented by attorneys at Becket Law, are requesting the court to intervene in order to make sure they do not have to violate their faith when providing healthcare plans.

"Becket has argued all along that the government has many ways to provide services to women who want them as well as protect the Little Sisters," a case summary stated on Becket's website.

"Neither the federal government nor the state governments need nuns to help them give out contraceptives," it continued.

Mother Loraine Marie Maguire with the Little Sisters of the Poor said that members of the charitable organization only want to "continue our religious mission of caring for the elderly poor as we have over 175 years."

"We pray that these state governments will leave us alone and let us do our work in peace," she continued.

Trump's executive order had placed a limit on a rule created under the Obama administration's Affordable Care Act that required employers, including non-church religious organizations, to provide coverage for all forms of contraception, including birth control pills, abortion drugs and devices in their employees' healthcare plans.

In May 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court appeared to have ruled in favor of the Little Sisters when it unanimously ordered lower courts to review a case involving the contraception mandate.

In a separate case, the high court ruled that businesses, such as Hobby Lobby, were protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which holds that an individual's religious expression may not be "substantially burdened" by a law unless there is a "compelling government interest."

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the ruling that the contraception rule would require business owners to make the difficult choice of either giving up their right to protection for their religious liberty or forgoing benefits available to their competitors.

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