In his speech welcoming Pope Francis to the U.S. on Wednesday morning, President Barack Obama said that the U.S. "cherishes" and "must defend" religious liberty, despite accusations that his signature health care legislation, the Affordable Care Act, imposed mandates that would violate the religious convictions of Catholics.
"You remind us people are only truly free when they can practice their faith freely. Here in the United States, we cherish religious liberty," Obama said.
In two highly publicized cases, the Supreme Court ruled against the Obama Administration to issue stays for organizations that opposed requirements to provide contraception for their employees.
"So we stand with you in defense of religious freedom and interfaith dialogue, knowing that people everywhere must be able to live out their faith free from fear and free from intimidation, Obama said."
A group of nuns called Little Sisters of the Poor first fought the White House on the mandate in December 2013 when liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor obliged by giving religiously affiliated organizations an exemption so they did not have to act against their faith due to Obama’s law.
"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," the U.S. Solicitor General said protesting the decision to give the Catholic organization the freedom to operate according to their faith.
Similarly, in June 2014 the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby against Obama. The Court found that a family owned company should not be forced to operate against their faith by being forced to offer contraception to their employees.
The White House strongly pushed back against the Court’s ruling, calling it an attack on women’s rights.
"Today’s decision jeopardizes the health of women who are employed by these companies," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
The case drove a wedge between religious groups and the Obama administration.
"Today's decision is a victory for religious freedom and another defeat for an administration that has repeatedly crossed constitutional lines in pursuit of big government," Speaker John Boehner said in response to the Court’s Hobby Lobby decision.