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Obama's Lawyers Shoot Down Catholic Groups' Objections To Birth Control Mandate

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WASHINGTON -- Requiring Catholic institutions to sign a form to get out of the Affordable Care Act's birth control mandate isn't a "substantial burden" requiring immediate intervention from the nation's highest court, the Obama administration argued Friday.

"With the stroke of their own pen, applicants can secure for themselves the relief they seek from this Court -- an exemption from the requirements of the contraceptive-coverage provision -- and the employer-applicants’ employees (and their family members) will not receive contraceptive coverage through the plan’s third-party administrator either," Solicitor General Donald Verrilli wrote in a motion to the Supreme Court.

Several Catholic nonprofits have asked the Supreme Court to grant an injunction preventing them from having to sign a form to get an exemption from the Obamacare provision requiring their insurance plans to cover contraception.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor granted the nonprofits a temporary injunction late Tuesday, just hours before the mandate was set to take effect, and asked the government to respond by Friday. It isn't clear when Sotomayor or the rest of the court will rule on whether to extend the injunction as the case is appealed.

While the Catholic institutions have compared filling out the form to Quakers being forced to join the military, Jewish prisoners being forced to eat pork or Seventh-Day Adventists being forced to work on Saturdays, the government said those were all flawed analogies.

"To mirror the situation here, the question in all of those cases would be whether the religious objector could be required to sign a certification form in order to secure the religion-based exemption he sought," Verrilli wrote.

"It is applicants’ position, not that of the court of appeals, that would lead to absurd results in those cases, for it would seemingly mean that the Quaker could not be made to attest to his status as a conscientious objector before being absolved of his military obligations; that the Jewish prisoner could not be required to fill out a form saying he had a religious objection to the consumption of pork before he was provided an alternative meal; and that the Seventh Day Adventist could not be obligated to state that he had a religious objection to working on Saturdays before being relieved of his shift."

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