Victory for Little Sisters of the Poor

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by Paul Murano  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  July 8, 2020   

Supreme Court: Contraceptive mandate doesn't apply

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WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - The U.S. Supreme Court has freed Little Sisters of the Poor from Obama's contraceptive mandate.

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Justice Clarence Thomas

In a 7–2 ruling on Wednesday, the High Court sided with the sisters, who were fighting to avoid providing contraception coverage in their health care plan. Two liberal justices, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer, sided with the conservative majority of Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, John Roberts, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

Justice Thomas, writing for the majority, stated:

For over 150 years, the Little Sisters have engaged in faithful service and sacrifice, motivated by a religious calling to surrender all for the sake of their brother. But for the past seven years, they — like many other religious objectors who have participated in the litigation and rulemakings leading up to today's decision — have had to fight for the ability to continue in their noble work without violating their sincerely held religious beliefs.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, speaking for the dissent, had a different view:

Today, for the first time, the Court casts totally aside countervailing rights and interests in its zeal to secure religious rights to the nth degree. Destructive of the Women's Health Amendment, this Court leaves women workers to fend for themselves, to seek contraceptive coverage from sources other than their employer's insurer, and, absent another available source of funding, to pay for contraceptive services out of their own pockets.

For nearly eight years, the Little Sisters of the Poor have been battling various forces that would make them provide contraception in their employees' health insurance. For an insurance plan to qualify under the Affordable Care Act, it had to include a number of free preventive services, and contraception was one of those. The Obama administration allowed for certain organizations, like churches and their affiliated ministries, to be exempt, but the guidelines didn't include religious orders like the Little Sisters, who provide services to the elderly poor.

But for the past seven years, they ... have had to fight for the ability to continue in their noble work without violating their sincerely held religious beliefs.

The Little Sisters of the Poor and other faith-based groups had won an initial victory in 2016. This is when the Supreme Court ruled partially in favor of the sisters, striking down lower court rulings forcing religious orders to participate in a health care scheme to provide contraceptives and abortifacients to employees. The Supreme Court voted unanimously that the Little Sisters of the Poor and other defendants, including Priests for Life, the Archbishop of Washington and three Protestant organizations, are to be allowed to follow their religious convictions regarding the Affordable Care Act. The High Court sent it back to lower courts for further deliberation.

 

In 2018, in support of the Supreme Court decision, the Trump administration issued a rule protecting the conscience rights of nonprofit and religious organizations. The move exempted organizations like the Little Sisters. It greatly angered House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose professed Catholic religion officially teaches contraception is intrinsically evil and abortion-inducing drugs are equivalent to murder.

The Little Sisters' long struggle for survival is one evidence of the growing hostility to religion in America.

Twenty states objected to the Trump administration's order and sued the federal government. New Jersey and Pennsylvania had also sued the U.S. government and the Little Sisters, claiming women are denied access to contraception in Trump v. Pennsylvania and Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania. The Trump administration gave nearly all religious employers a broad, green light to choose for themselves what they include with regard to contraception and abortion. New Jersey and Pennsylvania believe the administration acted unlawfully in doing this.

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Tony Perkins

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins released the following statement on this latest Supreme Court ruling:

The Little Sisters' long struggle for survival is one evidence of the growing hostility to religion in America. It should be common sense to allow a religious group to conduct themselves according to their religious convictions, and yet government agents have tried to punish them with obtuse fines for doing just that. We are pleased to see the Supreme Court still recognizes religious freedom.

There is no more fundamental freedom than to obey the dictates of one's own conscience, and no freedom should be held more sacred from government interference.

We are glad that the Constitution protects the Little Sisters and others willing to stand up for their beliefs in the face of intense, longstanding opposition. These brave women have endured nine years of legal persecution for their religious beliefs, and we sincerely hope the Supreme Court's decision today is the end of this unjust saga. Enough is enough.

Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins noted that this decision reflects "the common sense understanding that the nuns of the Little Sisters of the Poor should not be forced to act against their deeply held beliefs. Birth control is widely available for purchase in the United States, but forcing people of faith to pay for it has always been a misuse of governmental power."

For centuries, the Church has carried on the ministry of Jesus Christ, healing the sick and bringing comfort to the dying in His name. Religious orders like the Little Sisters of the Poor are constantly attacked by lawsuits and government orders attempting to force them to participate or cooperate in unethical practices such as contraception, sterilization, gender reassignment surgery and abortion. Today's decision puts a legal end to this.

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