It’s safe to say that when the Obama administration began implementing the massive health care law, it did not want to pick a fight with an organization called “Little Sisters of the Poor,” but that is exactly what has happened.
And so far, the nuns are winning.
As part of Obamacare, the Little Sisters religious order is being forced to provide employee insurance that covers contraceptives and drugs that can cause chemical abortions – or face massive fines. The nuns, aided by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, sued the federal government.
In January the US Supreme Court sided with the nuns and said they did not have to follow the mandate while the case proceeds, although the court sent the case back to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, where the Little Sisters filed a brief in late February.
At the heart of the case is a simple question: Should businesses and religious organizations be required to participate in insurance that violates their religious beliefs?
The nuns aren’t the only ones winning in court. So far, courts have ruled against the Obama administration in 18 of 19 similar cases involving what is often called the abortion/contraceptive mandate, according to the Becket Fund. A total of 92 lawsuits have been filed against the administration.
Church are exempt from the mandate, but religious organizations like the Little Sisters are not. Christian and religious colleges also are not exempt.
“The government’s discrimination among religious institutions favors those that exercise their beliefs primarily through ‘houses of worship,’ ‘integrated auxiliaries,’ or ‘the exclusively religious activities of any religious orders,’” the Becket Fund said in its appeal. “The government is prohibited by the First Amendment from selectively handing out religious exemptions based on the government’s views of which organizations are ‘religious enough’ to deserve them.”
Case Could Have Big Impact
Baltimore’s Roman Catholic Archbishop William E. Lori said the Obama administration is “drawing lines where the church does not draw them.”
“We see serving the poor, educating the young, healing the sick, as a natural outgrowth from what we believe and how we worship,” he told The Baltimore Sun. “And so we believe that all of these ministries should be exempt.”
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Lori, the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, called the Little Sisters’ ministry “unmistakably an act of religion.”
The Becket Fund is representing a variety of companies and organizations who object to the mandate, including Houston Baptist University, Wheaton College, and Guidestone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel for the Becket Fund:
The government’s refusal to treat these ministries as ‘religious employers’ is senseless. The people spend their lives teaching and preaching their religious faith—if they do not qualify as ‘religious employers,’ the government needs to get a new definition.