The Supreme Court punted Monday on a challenge by religious-affiliated employers to ObamaCare’s contraception mandate, sending the election-year dispute back to the lower courts.
The justices had been considering whether religious-affiliated institutions like the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic charity of nuns, can be exempt from having to pay for — or indirectly allow — birth control and other reproductive coverage in their health plans.
But the court did not rule on the merits. Instead, the justices sent the cases back to the appeals courts to make new decisions based on recent statements.
“The Court expresses no view on the merits of the cases,” the court said in an unsigned, unanimous opinion. “In particular, the Court does not decide whether petitioners’ religious exercise has been substantially burdened, whether the Government has a compelling interest, or whether the current regulations are the least restrictive means of serving that interest.”
The decision ducks, for now, a high-profile dispute before the Supreme Court at the height of an election year — at a time when the court is dealing with a vacancy following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.