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High court sets March 23 to hear religious nonprofits' oral arguments



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The U.S. Supreme Court will hear seven consolidated cases brought by nonprofit religious organizations challenging the so-called contraceptive mandate under the health care reform law on March 23.

The cases, brought by Christian universities, nuns and charities, challenge the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act provision that requires employers to cover prescription contraceptives as part of their benefit plans.

The nonprofits argue that the requirement violates their religious rights under the U.S. Religious Freedom Restoration Act by forcing them to provide birth control coverage that they feel is immoral — even with an accommodation where they can pass the obligation on to their health insurer or third-party administrator.

They seek a complete exemption from the rule, which is now available only to churches.

Ninety minutes will be allotted for the consolidated oral argument, according to the Supreme Court’s calendar.

The plaintiffs include the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington; Staten Island, New York-based Priests for Life; Rev. David A Zubik, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh; Denver-based Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged; Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania-based Geneva College; Bethany, Oklahoma-based Southern Nazarene University; and Marshall, Texas-based East Texas Baptist University.

The Supreme Court in November granted the plaintiffs’ request to challenge the ACA’s contraceptive rule.