Late yesterday, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor granted the request of a community of nuns in Colorado to delay enforcement of the Obama administration's contraception mandate. Her order applies to the Little Sisters of the Poor in Colorado and other nonprofit groups whose health plans are administered by Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust. Sotomayor intervened after a U.S. Court of Appeals in Denver denied the nuns' request earlier on New Year's Eve.
Most news reports lead with the claim that Sotomayor's order blocks the Obama administration from forcing these groups to "provide contraception coverage" to their employees. But of course that's where the dispute lies. The Little Sisters of the Poor claim that the mandate forces them to act against their religious convictions, which, they say, do not allow them to "facilitate" the procurement of artificial contraception. (I find that claim tendentious.) The Obama administration says that religiously affiliated employers don't want to provide such coverage they can opt out, in which case a third party will offer it to employees. I imagine that will be more or less what administration lawyers will say in their reply to Sotomayor's order. She's given them until Friday to respond.