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Still in the Fight — Little Sisters of the Poor Just Asked the Supreme Court to Protect Religious Freedom

When Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, conservatives knew it would be anything but affordable, and their constitutional rights were in jeopardy.

Part of the bloated law, also known as Obamacare, was a provision known as the contraception mandate. Although women already have access to birth control, and in some cases, free birth control, leftists insisted that it was necessary for employers that offer health insurance to cover contraception — even if these employers had religious or moral objections and opposed potentially abortion-inducing drugs.

The exemption carved out under Obamacare for houses of worship and affiliates didn’t go far enough. Religious organizations like Little Sisters of the Poor and secular ones like March for Life also opposed the mandate. They both sued the government to stop enforcement.

Christian retailer Hobby Lobby also sued and won at the U.S. Supreme Court in 2014. The court ruled 5-4 that closely held corporations can’t be required to provide contraception coverage. The mandate violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as applied to the retailer.

March for Life, which holds a huge rally against abortion every January, prevailed. A federal court in 2017 permanently barred the government from enforcing the mandate against the organization.

Little Sisters of the Poor is still in litigation. The Supreme Court in 2016 unanimously vacated lower court rulings against Little Sisters of the Poor and other religious organizations, sent the cases back to the lower courts, and asked them to reconsider the cases. The Trump administration broadened religious exemptions to the mandate in 2017, but a coalition of states sued the federal government to remove the exemptions.

Little Sisters of the Poor essentially won its case but intervened in the states’ lawsuit. Why? To protect the religious rights of other organizations pushing back against the government’s abuse of power.

Becket Law, which represents the organization, announced on Wednesday that the Supreme Court heard arguments in the case via a teleconference.

This morning, it made was clear that Pennsylvania [one of the states in the coalition] takes an even stingier view of the government’s ability to make religious exemptions than the Obama administration did, denying that the Affordable Care Act even gives the government authority to exempt churches.

“We are hopeful that the Court will protect us as it did in 2016 and eager to be rid of this legal trouble which has hung over our ministry like a storm cloud for nearly a decade,” said Mother Loraine Marie Maguire of the Little Sisters of the Poor. “In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the lives of our residents face a real and imminent threat, we are more eager than ever to be able to care for our residents without being harassed by governments.”

Photo credit: Becket Law

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One comment

  1. I have a very soft spot in my heart for all the Sisters fighting the good since I was born in Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania back in the dark ages.