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High court sides with church-run hospitals, upholds retirement plans


The U.S. Supreme Court in Washington is seen Jan. 31. The court June 5 unanimously overturned decisions by three separate federal appellate courts and ruled that the retirement plans of three church-affiliated hospital systems -- two of them Catholic -- are indeed "church plans" as defined by Congress under a 1980 statute. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

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WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Supreme Court June 5 unanimously overturned decisions by three separate federal appellate courts and ruled that the retirement plans of three church-affiliated hospital systems -- two of them Catholic -- are indeed "church plans" as defined by Congress under a 1980 statute.

The 8-0 decision allows the hospital systems to continue to maintain their retirement plans as nonprofit entities instead of having to put them on the same footing as those established by for-profit companies.

The two Catholic hospital systems in the case were St. Peter's Healthcare System, a teaching hospital and several other medical facilities sponsored by the Diocese of Metuchen, New Jersey, and Dignity Health, which runs a network of community hospitals throughout the country and maintains ties to the Catholic religious orders that initially sponsored some of its facilities.

The case, Advocate Healthcare Network v. Stapleton, also involved Advocate Health Care Network, which operates 12 hospitals and about 250 other health care facilities in Illinois, and is associated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the United Church of Christ.

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