The Little Sisters of the Poor will finally have their day in court. Since 2012 when HHS former Secretary Kathleen Sebelius determined that all ObamaCare compliant insurance policies must cover contraception and abortion-inducing drugs (abortifacients), this Catholic charity of nuns that minister to the poor and disabled has been seeking relief from this mandate on religious grounds. The Supreme Court has just accepted their appeal.
To paraphrase the comments of Vice-President Joe Biden to President Obama during the original signing of this healthcare law, this is a really big deal. The Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwell is not just about some Catholic nuns seeking religious freedom. It’s about all Americans who hold religious beliefs that are threatened by an administration that wants to crush their constitutional rights.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty will represent The Little Sisters before the Supreme Court. The Becket Fund has an impressive record in cases before the high court – they have won 100%. They are the same non-profit law firm that represented Hobby Lobby in their successful appeal to the Supreme Court that was decided in 2014. That case represented the appeal of a for-profit family-owned business that objected to the abortifacients required by ObamaCare.
The Little Sisters’ appeal will be joined to the appeals of other non-profit organizations including Houston Baptist and East Texas Baptist Universities, Priests for Life, South Nazarene University, Geneva College, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, and Zubik (Catholic Bishop of the Pittsburg Diocese).
The Little Sisters of the Poor care for 13,000 of the elderly poor around the world. They object to the Obama administration’s “accommodation” to the Contraception Mandate of ObamaCare, which is now in its ninth unacceptable iteration. The mandate forces the Little Sisters to authorize the government to use the Sisters’ employee healthcare plan to provide contraceptives and abortifacients – a violation of their faith – or pay massive fines that would threaten their religious mission.
The Supreme Court granted the Little Sisters a temporary relief from this mandate in January 2014 but the Obama administration has continued to litigate this issue, despite losing in Hobby Lobby v. Burwell on essentially the same issue.
“The Becket Fund is grateful that the Supreme Court has decided to weigh in on this important case,” said Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. “The Little Sisters spend their lives taking care of the elderly poor—that is work our government should applaud, not punish. The Little Sisters should not have to fight their own government to get an exemption it has already given to thousands of other employers, including Exxon, Pepsi Cola Bottling Company, and Boeing. Nor should the government be allowed to say that the Sisters aren’t ‘religious enough’ to merit the exemption that churches and other religious ministries have received.”
William McGurn of The Wall Street Journal quotes Becket Fund President William Mumma: “The narrow issue here is the birth-control mandate. The larger issue is that religious liberty is not some subcategory of liberty. It’s a bellwether, because a government that doesn’t respect a citizen’s liberty to worship God the way he sees fit is not likely to respect other liberties.”
It is disturbing that this government didn’t drop their objections to this issue after losing in Hobby Lobby. It speaks to their arrogance and determination to crush our religious freedom in the pursuit of their ideological goals despite the high court’s restraint.
McGurn says the Obama administration understands the optics of a White House threatening to sic the IRS on religious women who run loving homes for the poor and elderly. Yet they have pursued this issue, pleading with the Supreme Court not to take up the Little Sisters appeal. Fortunately, they failed.
Mumma summarizes the importance of this case: “The administration objected because it knows that the Little Sisters clarify the stakes. Because if the government is willing to put its boot on the neck of an order of nuns, who’s safe?”