The fact that the Supreme Court unanimously sent their case back to the lower court to get a settlement satisfactory to the Sisters - everyone sees this as a win for Religious freedom.
Here are some commentaries on the case -
Bill McGurn, WSJ columnist -
To begin with, the justices vacated the lower-court rulings the sisters were fighting. The parties, the court said, should have another opportunity to work out a way to deliver contraceptives that doesn’t violate the religious objections of the Little Sisters and their co-plaintiffs.
Most important, the Supreme Court took away the administration’s tool for bullying: The government, it said, “may not impose taxes or penalties” on those who refuse to authorize their plans to provide the contested coverage.
From Ed Mechmann at the NY Archdiocese -
There are a couple of crucial take-aways from this.
- All along, the argument by the religious non-profits has been that they don't want to be involved in providing abortion and contraception services that they find morally offensive.
- This ruling vindicates that argument, and sends a clear signal to the government that they can't force religious people to violate their religious beliefs by threatening them with ruinous fines.
- The ruling also makes clear that it is not the business of the government or courts to tell people when their religious beliefs are burdened by a law. The Court's decision is a direct rebuke to the lower courts who substituted their judgement about Catholic and Christian belief for the plaintiffs.
- The government has not been told in no uncertain terms that they have to be more accommodating of religious belief, and more creative in coming up with ways to achieve their goals without burdening religious beliefs.
- The government's parsimonious view of religious freedom has now been dealt its fourth consecutive major blow -- starting with the Hosanna Tabor case, through Hobby Lobby, and now with Zubik, the Court is sending a clear message that the constitutional recognition of religous freedom has to be given special weight when it is negatively impacted by government policies.
The Becket Fund Press release -
WASHINGTON, D.C. –Today the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the government cannot fine the Little Sisters of the Poor. The Supreme Court vacated the lower court rulings against the Little Sisters, accepting the government’s admission that it could meet its goals of providing the free services to women without involving the Little Sisters or using their plan. The Court also ordered the lower Courts to help the government choose an alternative method of providing the services that does not require the participation of the Little Sisters.
And from the Scotusblog, here is a "neutral analysis" - thanks to Ed Mechmann for sending us this link.
Without settling any legal issues surrounding the Affordable Care Act’s birth-control mandate, the Supreme Court on Monday nevertheless cleared the way for the government to promptly provide no-cost access to contraceptives for employees and students of non-profit religious hospitals, charities, and colleges, while barring any penalties on those institutions for failing to provide that access themselves. Thirteen separate cases were sent back to federal appeals courts for them to issue new rulings on the questions the Justices left undecided.