Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo

Becket Role:
Case Start Date:
February 19, 2020
Deciding Court:
U.S. Supreme Court
Original Court:
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia
Supreme Court Status:
Cert Granted
Practice Area(s):

Case Snapshot

Ever since the Supreme Court’s 1984 decision in Chevron v. National Resources Defense Council required courts to defer to government agencies when those agencies interpret federal law, Executive Branch officials have used that power to target religious believers. The Little Sisters of the Poor, for example, have been in court for a decade fighting to continue their ministry of serving the elderly poor without having to violate their faith. A new case before the Supreme Court, Loper Bright v. Raimondo, presents the Court with an opportunity to revisit Chevron and protect religious groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor.


On July 24, 2023, Becket filed a friend-of-the-court brief at the Supreme Court. The Justices will hear oral arguments in the upcoming term.

Case Summary

Supreme Court allows government power grab 

The framework of American government was built on the idea that different branches of government should check and balance each other. That structure was created to stop a concentration of power in any one branch that would eventually lead to abuses by the government. However, in its 1984 ruling Chevron v. National Resources Defense Council, the Supreme Court gave the executive branch enormous power over the branches of the federal government. The Court ruled that when a law passed by Congress is unclear, courts should trust executive branch agencies to interpret and apply the law in the first instance. This power, known as Chevron “deference”, has given federal officials license to wield executive authority in ways that go well beyond what Congress intended. For years, the Chevron decision has empowered federal government officials to target religious believers for special disfavor. 

Chevron punishes religious groups 

The Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic order of nuns that run homes for the elderly poor, are just one example of how Chevron has hurt religious groups. In 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a federal mandate as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This mandate, based on vague language in the ACA, required employers to provide contraceptives in their health insurance plans. Despite the many religious objections to the contraceptive mandate, HHS included an exceedingly narrow religious exemption—one that did not include groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor. The Little Sisters’ religious beliefs about the dignity of all human life meant that complying with the mandate was impossible.  

For a decade now, the Little Sisters have been in and out of court fighting to receive permanent protection from the contraceptive mandate. Even though they have secured multiple victories—including at the Supreme Court—they have been forced through years of court battles. The endless cycle of punishment for religious objectors exists because the Court’s decision in Chevron has empowered federal regulators to create new ways to punish unpopular religious groups and deny them exemptions. 

The Court should rebalance the branches of government 

Becket filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of The Little Sisters of the Poor in support of Loper Bright, detailing the long history of how unchecked executive power has been a unique threat to religious groups. The brief urges the Court to adopt a rule that will check executive overreach at all levels of the legal system, ensuring that officials can no longer use their powers to run roughshod over religious believers. This will protect religious groups like the Little Sisters who will not be forced to endure years of litigation in federal courts. 


Importance to Religious Liberty:

Religious communities — The ability of individuals to gather freely together to worship and teach their religion is a cornerstone of religious liberty. U.S. law has always protected the rights of religious ministries, schools, and churches to be able to make their own rules and live out their own values free from government interference.