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(Bloomberg) — Religious hospitals won a multibillion-dollar U.S. Supreme Court clash, as the court said they can invoke an exemption from the federal rules that govern most private pension plans.

Workers had won a series of federal appeals court decisions opening religious hospital systems to claims that their plans are underfunded. The appeals courts said religious organizations must comply with the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, the law that governs employee benefits and protects retirement plans.

The Supreme Court unanimously disagreed, saying in a ruling Monday that plans maintained by religious organizations qualify for an exemption from those rules. Churches themselves were already exempt from those rules.

Neil Gorsuch, the newest justice, did not take part in consideration of the case or in the decision.

Elana Kagan, one of President Barack Obama’s appointees, wrote the opinion for the eight justices who ruled in favor of the religious hospital plans. Sonia Sotomayor, another Obama appointee, wrote a concurring opinion.

The opinion is available here.

A copy of a transcript of the oral arguments is available here.

— Read Religious Health Systems, Facing ERISA Liability, Pin Hope on Justices on ThinkAdvisor.

 

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