The United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments March 23 in a case that will decide whether the federal government can force an order of Catholic nuns—the Little Sisters of the Poor—to provide contraceptive drugs and devices, abortifacients and sterilizations in their benefit plan. The Little Sisters provide nursing home care for more than 13,000 poor elderly people around the world.
No, you are not in the twilight zone. The Obama Administration really wants to force the Little Sisters—along with numerous other religious institutions the Administration deems not to be religious enough to qualify for the “religious exemption” from its “HHS contraceptive mandate”—to violate their religious beliefs.
In addition to the Little Sisters’ case, there are 55 more non-profit cases filed by religious institutions that failed to meet the Administration’s religion test to be exempted from the mandate. The Supreme Court agreed to consolidate six of these cases along with the Little Sisters case: Houston Baptist and East Texas Baptist Universities, Priests for Life, South Nazarene University, Geneva College, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington and the Dioceses of Pittsburgh and Erie.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing the Little Sisters (and other plaintiffs) in Court, has an enormous amount of information about all of the challenges to the HHS mandate at www.becketfund.org and www.thelittlesistersofthepoor.com. Becket recently provided the following facts about the Little Sisters’ case that punctuate the extreme and punitive nature of the mandate:
- First, 1 in 3 Americans do not have a plan that is subject to the mandate HHS is fighting so hard to force on the Little Sisters.
- Second, Exxon, Chevron, and Pepsi—as well as other large corporations—are exempt from the mandate, because they never changed their plans and are grandfathered.
- Third, the government is not even requiring our own US military—the largest employer in the nation—to provide these services through their family insurance.
- Fourth, this case does not endanger or affect the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). It only deals with a regulation created by an agency—Health and Human Services—which would force the Sisters to provide services like the week after pill, ella, to its employees.
- Fifth, the government is arguing that since it has offered to reimburse the costs of the services it wants the Little Sisters to provide, they should have no moral objection to offering them. The Little Sisters are saying this is not about money, but conscience, and whether they should be forced to change their healthcare plan to offer services they have a moral objection to when those services could be provided more effectively through the government’s healthcare exchange.
- Sixth, if the Little Sisters do not provide these services, the government is threatening to fine them with $70 million in fines per year.
- Seventh, the Little Sisters are focused on service to the elderly. They exhausted every possible option before going to Court.
- Eighth, the Little Sisters are not trying to prevent the government from providing these services, but object to the government’s insisting the Little Sisters provide them (especially since the government has already refused to ensure that those free services are provided to one in three Americans).
In June 2014, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Obama Administration’s contraception/abortifacient/ sterilization mandate violates the religious freedom of Hobby Lobby and other for-profit family-owned or “closely held corporations.” Hopefully, the Court will come to the same conclusion for the Little Sisters of the Poor and other non-profit religious institutions. Let’s join in prayer that the Holy Spirit will guide the minds and hearts of the United States Supreme Court.
Posted on Thu, April 7, 2016
by Marge Buescher