Justices side with religious hospitals in pension dispute

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(AP) — A unanimous Supreme Court says religious hospitals don’t have to comply with federal laws protecting pension benefits for workers.

The justices on Monday ruled in favor of three church-affiliated nonprofit hospital systems being sued for underfunding pension plans covering about 100,000 employees.

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Two of the hospitals are Catholic affiliates and the third has Lutheran ties. The hospitals argued that their pensions are “church plans” exempt from the law and have been treated as such for decades by federal officials. They sought to overturn three lower court rulings against them.

Workers argued that Congress never meant to exempt them and say the hospitals are shirking legal safeguards that could jeopardize retirement benefits.