Notre Dame University in Indiana
The Golden Dome of the Main Building with the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in the foreground Wikipedia

A US court has let stand an earlier order that Catholic University of Notre Dame continue providing health insurance for students and staff that covers birth control.

The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in a 2-1 ruling cleared the way for a trial on the issue but denied any immediate religious exemption.

It was an unusual decision in light of the highly controversial so-called Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision which allows small "closely held" private companies to opt out of paying for contraception through insurance it it's against their religious beliefs.

The Notre Dame decision marked the first time that a federal appeals court rejected a claim that the Hobby Lobby Stores ruling should also shield a non-profit religious organization from carrying out the Affordable Care Act's mandate to cover contraceptive. The university could try to get some temporary relief by returning quickly to the Supreme Court, reports the Scotus Blog.

The university will still have its day in court on the issue, but the preliminary order demanding the status quo continue indicates a tough battle for the Catholic institution.

Notre Dame wanted the court to prohibit outside insurers from providing any contraceptive coverage for its staff or students based on religious exemption.That, the court noted in denying Notre Dame, would mean that workers and students who do not now have such coverage "would have to fend for themselves."