The following comes from a March 30 news release from Thomas Aquinas College:

Thomas Aquinas College officials have responded with optimism to the U.S. Supreme Court’s order — less than a week after hearing oral arguments in the case of Zubik v. Burwell — that both sides file supplemental briefs to aid the justices in their decision. “This is encouraging news,” says President Michael F. McLean. “It suggests that the justices are looking for a solution that satisfies the government’s policy aims without getting religious organizations, such as the college, involved in furnishing access to morally objectionable coverage.”

Under the existing terms of the Affordable Care Act — which the college and its 34 co-plaintiffs have challenged in a series of lawsuits now culminating in the one before the high court — religious organizations are required to facilitate the provision of contraceptive, abortifacient, and sterilization coverage to their employees. On Tuesday, however, the Court instructed the litigants’ attorneys “to address whether and how contraceptive coverage may be obtained by petitioners’ employees through petitioners’ insurance companies, but in a way that does not require any involvement of petitioners beyond their own decision to provide health insurance without contraceptive coverage to their employees.”

This development, observes college General Counsel Quincy Masteller, is unusual. “It is irregular for the Court to make such requests of the parties to a case, but it shows that the justices are really wrestling with the issues at stake,” says Mr. Masteller. “I think they see the religious issue involved and the burden that the government scheme has put on the religious entities that object on moral grounds, and they are trying to find a way to protect the religious entities’ interest while meeting the government’s interest in providing the coverage.”

The request for supplemental briefs, added Dr. McLean, compels both sides to make a good-faith effort to reach a mutually agreeable resolution. “We will work with our attorneys to offer constructive solutions that reflect our desire to be good citizens without compromising our fidelity to the Catholic Church and its teachings,” he said. “We ask friends of Thomas Aquinas College, the Little Sisters of the Poor, Priests for Life, and all of our co-plaintiffs to continue to pray for a favorable outcome in this important case.”