Will Supreme Court Force Little Sisters of the Poor to Approve Contraception Coverage?

News: Government
by Church Militant  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  March 24, 2016   

A split Court decision means a mixed bag for Catholics

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WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - Things do not look good for the Catholic organizations awaiting the Supreme Court's decision in their case challenging Obamacare. If they lose, they will either be forced to approve their employees' obtaining healthcare services from third-party providers — or else pay $70 million in fines.

The Catholic groups are led by Bp. David Zubik of Pittsburgh. Other petitioners include the Little Sisters of the Poor, religious schools such as Geneva College, Catholic charities and hospitals, and the archbishop of Washington himself, Cdl. Donald Wuerl.

If the justices' decision is split 4–4, then the cases will revert back to the lower courts' previous rulings, most of which ruled against the Catholic organizations. Without the late Justice Antonin Scalia to secure the conservative bloc, the case does not look hopeful for the Catholic groups.

The only exception is the Little Sisters, whose position was upheld en banc by a rehearing of the judges on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. If the Supreme Court decision splits evenly, then the previous ruling holds, and the Little Sisters will win, while all the other groups lose. If the court decides against the Catholics, then the Little Sisters will lose along with everyone else.

The eight Justices engaged in heated disputes Wednesday for nearly two hours over whether the Little Sisters of the Poor and other religious communities must pay for "healthcare services" that violate their deeply held religious convictions.

The conservative justices, weakened by the absence of constitutionalist J. Antonin Scalia, are questioning if the government has a right to force religious communities to pay for specific insurance plans.

During arguments, J. Samuel Alito suggested that Obamacare, applied to this situation, "presents an unprecedented threat to religious liberty in this country."

Chief Justice John Roberts appeared to agree, calling the Obama administration's imposition a "violation of a basic principle of faith."

The liberal justices, however, insist the government has already conceded too much to the Little Sisters by permiting them to pass their employees birth control coverage on to third-party providers. The liberals do not want religious communities exempted completely from Obama's Affordable Healthcare Act.

"It can't be all my way," J. Ruth Bader Ginsburg said. "There has to be an accommodation."

Justice Anthony Kennedy, known for his unpredictable deciding votes, is leaning in favor of the religious communities case, saying that in this instance Obamacare seems to be "a substantial burden" on religious non-profits.

Congressman Paul Ryan is defending the Little Sisters, saying that while many politicians talk about public service, these Catholic nuns "live it."

"The burden is not on your faith to obey government mandates, the burden is on the government to respect your faith," Ryan declared, quoting the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Ryan recounted that he has hosted the Little Sisters before and is pleased with their hard work, adding that the so-called accommodation to the Little Sisters by the government is nothing more than a "fig leaf."

"They are the definition of public service," he said. "The last thing the federal government should do is make their jobs harder."


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