Press Releases

First Liberty Institute Defends Religious Ministries at the United States Supreme Court

November 4, 2019

News Release
For Immediate Release: 11.4.19
Contact: Lacey McNiel,
Direct: 972-941-4453

First Liberty Institute Defends Religious Ministries at the United States Supreme Court

First Liberty Institute files friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of Little Sisters of the Poor urging Court to preserve religious exemption from ACA’s contraceptive mandate

Washington, DC—First Liberty Institute filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the Supreme Court of the United States to grant review in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, et. al.  Little Sisters of the Poor is asking the Court to reverse a lower court ruling that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) does not permit a broad religious exemption from the Affordable Care Act’s Contraceptive Mandate. Without a religious exemption, the Mandate would require the Little Sisters of the Poor—a religious order of nuns—to provide contraceptives even though their sincerely-held religious beliefs forbid the use of contraceptives.

“Enough is enough.  The Supreme Court of the United States needs to finally protect Little Sisters of the Poor and all other religious objectors from government-forced violations of their faith,” said Keisha Russell, Counsel for First Liberty Institute.  “We are hopeful the justices will respect the religious liberty of all religious orders and non-profits and reverse the Third Circuit’s dangerous decision.

In 2017, after multiple legal challenges to the Contraceptive Mandate, the Trump Administration adopted new regulations which broadly exempted both moral and religious objectors from the Mandate.  But several states, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey, sued the Trump Administration claiming that the federal government could not provide religious exemptions under RFRA. The states complained that they did not want to pay for the contraception they thought was so vitally important to the hypothetical women they claimed would be “harmed” by the exemptions.

The U.S Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled against religious objectors, concluding that RFRA does not permit a broad religious exemption from the Contraception Mandate, jeopardizing the exemptions granted to the nuns and others.  The Little Sisters appealed that decision to the Supreme Court.

According to First Liberty’s brief, the Third Circuit defied binding precedent and impermissibly evaluated the truth of the employers’ religious convictions. Instead of accepting the employers’ assertions about their sincere beliefs of complicity to contraception, the court outright rejected the employers’ beliefs, concluding that they are unreasonable and, therefore unworthy of protection.  The decision threatens religious freedom by concluding which religious convictions are reasonable in the eyes of the court, an action that the law precludes.

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About First Liberty Institute

First Liberty Institute is the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.

To arrange an interview, contact Lacey McNiel at or by calling 972-941-4453.

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