In two separate rulings on Wednesday, the Supreme Court came down on the side of religious freedom – one involving an Obamacare exemption, the other involving employment discrimination.
Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania
The first case involved Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Roman Catholic nuns that objected to the Obamacare rule to provide free contraceptive coverage in insurance. The nuns won that case in 2016 but were forced to defend themselves again when a Trump administration executive order exempted religious institutions from the requirement.
The high court on Wednesday said in a 7-2 ruling that the administration acted properly when it made the change, which lower courts had blocked.
"We hold today that the Departments had the statutory authority to craft that exemption, as well as the contemporaneously issued moral exemption. We further hold that the rules promulgating these exemptions are free from procedural defects," Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for a majority of the court.
Brad Dacus of the Pacific Justice Institute tells OneNewsNow that the ruling is a move in the right direction.
"And at the very least [it] respects the rights of the president in this situation to issue executive orders that exempt non-profit ministries like this group of nuns from having to compromise their faith when it comes to providing reproductive health services," Dacus tells OneNewsNow.
The attorney explains that's why the Free Exercise Clause was placed in the Constitution: to prevent the government from bullying religious institutions into violating their faith.
"This impacts ministries, churches, [and] private Christian schools that have similar convictions when it comes to funding abortion or other controversial reproductive services," Dacus adds.
Conservative and religious groups were relieved at today's decisions, especially in light of the court ruling last month against restrictions on abortuaries and abortionists.
Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berry
In the second case, the high court ruled – again, in a 7-2 decision – that religious institutions can hire or fire employees who don't fit within the organization's religious beliefs. The ruling covers religious schools, hospitals and social service agencies.
Justice Samuel Alito, in writing the majority opinion, stated that allowing courts to consider workplace discrimination claims against the schools would interfere with the schools' çonstitutionally guaranteed religious independence.
"The religious education and formation of students is the very reason for the existence of most private religious schools, and therefore the selection and supervision of the teachers upon whom the schools rely to do this work lie at the core of their mission," Alito wrote.
Abraham Hamilton III, general counsel for American Family Association, explained Wednesday on American Family Radio that the ruling doesn't necessarily cover all employment positions at the two Catholic schools involved in the cases.
"Their instruction is clearly central to the school's religious purposes – and these were religion teachers [who sued the schools]," he explained. "And so for a court to weigh in, you're getting too close to effecting church doctrinal matters.
"But there still remains a question as to whether or not this would apply to someone who could be construed as, although working at a religious school, their function and purpose in employment is exclusively secular."
Hamilton offered this advice when it comes to that question.
"I would recommend that religious organizations make their religious functions explicit," the attorney stated, "and especially religious schools to make sure that it's communicated that every discipline that is being instructed is a part of the cultivation and formulation of a Christian worldview within the context of a Christian ethos."
Scripture, he adds, should be included in the agreement, emphasizing that all academic instruction is a part of Christian formation and that obedience to scripture is required.
Associated Press contributed to this article.
Editor's Note: The American Family Association is the parent organization of the American Family News Network, which operates OneNewsNow.com.