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(Bloomberg View) — A group of Catholic nuns, the Little Sisters of the Poor, wants relief from the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that it offer contraceptive coverage to its employees. The nuns lost a court case this week — and everyone who cares about religious freedom should be troubled by the reasons why.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act lets religious believers seek exemptions from laws or regulations, but it also lets courts deny those exemptions for many reasons. The courts can conclude that the religious objection is insincere, a cover for some non-religious motive for shirking legal obligations. They can conclude that the government isn’t subjecting the objectors to serious harm for following their consciences. They can conclude that the violation of conscience is necessary to pursue an important public purpose.

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