U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled that church-affiliated hospital
systems do not have to comply with a federal law governing employee
pensions, overturning lower court decisions.
organizations are exempt from the Employee Retirement Income Security
Act (ERISA), a 1974 law that forces private employers to follow rules
aimed at protecting pension plan participants.
accused the hospital systems of being big businesses posing as church
organizations in order to avoid minimum funding and reporting
requirements under ERISA.
hospital systems maintained that their religious affiliation made
them exempt from ERISA. St. Peters is affiliated with the Roman
Catholic Church. Dignity operates both Catholic and non-Catholic
hospitals. Advocate is affiliated with the United Church of Christ
and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Sonia Sotomayor agreed with the ruling based on the text of the law.
But, in a separate opinion, she wrote that she was "troubled"
with the outcome, noting that some church-affiliated organizations
operate for-profit subsidiaries, earn billions of dollars in revenues
and compete with companies that must comply with ERISA, adding
that "employees - who work for organizations that look and
operate much like secular businesses - potentially might be denied
2014, the justices sided with Hobby Lobby, a retailer owned by
conservative Christians, that objected to a federal requirement that
it pay for insurance coverage for women's birth control, saying that
violated a U.S. law protecting religious freedom.