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Birth-control cases await Supreme Court

A demonstrator held up a sign outside the Supreme Court in Washington on the day the court decided in the Hobby Lobby case to relieve businesses with religious objections of their obligation to pay for women's contraceptives.

AP

A demonstrator held up a sign outside the Supreme Court in Washington on the day the court decided in the Hobby Lobby case to relieve businesses with religious objections of their obligation to pay for women's contraceptives.

WASHINGTON — The next legal dispute over religion and the new federal health law that is expected to reach the Supreme Court involves the question of how far the government must go to accommodate nonprofit groups that oppose paying for contraception.

More than four dozen lawsuits have been filed by faith-affiliated charities, colleges, and hospitals that oppose some or all forms of contraception as immoral.

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The justices on June 30 relieved businesses with religious objections of their obligation to pay for women’s contraceptives among a range of preventive services the new law calls for in health plans.

Religious-oriented nonprofit groups already could opt out of covering the contraceptives. But the organizations say the accommodation provided by the administration does not go far enough because, though they are not on the hook financially, they remain complicit in the provision of government-approved contraceptives to women covered by their plans.

The high court will be asked to take on the issue in its term that begins in October. A challenge from the University of Notre Dame probably will be the first case.

The Obama administration argues that the accommodation creates a generous moral and financial buffer between religious objectors and funding birth control. The nonprofit groups just have to state that paying for any or all of the 20 devices and methods approved by government regulators would violate their religious beliefs. To do so, they must fill out a government document that enables their insurers or third-party administrators to take on the responsibility of paying for the birth control.

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