by Adam Liptak
WASHINGTON — In temporarily blocking enforcement of the part of President Obama’s health care law that requires many employers to provide health insurance coverage for birth control or face penalties, Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Tuesday opened a second front in Supreme Court challenges to the provision.
***Under the law, religious employers like churches are exempt from the contraceptive requirement. For-profit corporations fall on the other end of the spectrum and are not exempt. Nonprofit groups affiliated with, but not owned or controlled by religious organizations, like the Little Sisters of the Poor, fall in the middle. Although such groups need not provide coverage themselves, they must sign a certification allowing insurance companies to do so.
The dispute in the new case is whether that certification itself amounts to conduct that violates the groups’ religious faith.
In a separate case, a divided three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Tuesday issued its own injunction against the requirement. But in a dissent, Judge David S. Tatel wrote that the certification requirement aided rather than hindered religious liberty.
“Simply put,” he wrote, “far from imposing a ‘substantial burden’ on appellants’ religious freedom, the challenged provision allows appellants to avoid having to do something that would substantially burden their religious freedom.”