Big Government vs. the Little Sisters of the Poor

As expected, the Obama Administration today asked the Supreme Court not to exempt Catholic groups from an ObamaCare requirement to offer contraceptive coverage, after Justice Sonia Sotomayor gave them a temporary reprieve earlier this week.

That means that Catholic doctrine notwithstanding, President Obama and his minions want to enforce coverage which includes birth control pills and abortifacients for this person:

The Administration’s court filing comes in response to an emergency stay issued late Tuesday, December 31 by Justice Sonia Sotomayor which prevented the government from enforcing the Mandate against the Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing the nuns in the case, argue that since the Catholic Church strongly opposes birth control, any requirement which requires that they pay for it or their insurance coverage include it is a violation of the Sisters’ religious liberties, as guaranteed by the First Amendment.

But the Justice Department, responding this morning before the 10 a.m. deadline imposed by Justice Sotomayor, reiterated its tired argument that the group has no foundation for its case.  The Obama Administration contends that religious groups such as Little Sisters of the Poor can simply certify that they don’t want to provide contraception coverage, leaving it to a third-party provider (the insurance plan) to decide whether to provide coverage.  The Administration’s response claims,

“Applicants have no legal basis to challenge the self certification requirement or to complain that it involves them in the process of providing contraceptive coverage.” 

However, the Sisters have argued that even signing the certification form would violate their religious beliefs.

Mark Rienzi, senior counsel for the Becket Fund, said in a statement,

“The government demands that the Little Sisters of the Poor sign a permission slip for abortion drugs and contraceptives, or pay millions in fines.  The Sisters believe that doing that violates their faith, and that they shouldn’t be forced to divert funds from the poor, elderly and dying people they’ve devoted their lives to serve.”

Until now, the Obama Administration has insisted that only churches are entitled to an exemption—and that the exemption does not extend to religious institutions such as social service agencies or schools.  The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in their March 2012 statement, listed three areas of concern with the Affordable Care Act:  (1) the narrow definition of “religious employers” that are exempted, (2) the “accommodation” of religious ministries excluded from that definition, and (3) the treatment of businesses run by people who seek to operate their companies according to religious principles.

The USCCB has refused to comply.  In a fact sheet on the contraceptive mandate, the USCCB explained:

1. The mandate forces coverage of sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs and devices as well as contraception. Though commonly called the “contraceptive mandate,” the federal mandate also forces employers to sponsor and subsidize coverage of sterilization. And by including all drugs approved by the FDA for use as contraceptives, the mandate includes drugs that can induce abortion such as “Ella” (Ulipristal), a close cousin of the abortion pill RU-486.

2. The mandate does not exempt Catholic charities, schools, universities, or hospitals. These institutions are vital to the mission of the Church, but the Administration does not deem them “religious employers” deserving conscience protection because they do not “serve primarily persons who share the[ir] religious tenets.” The Administration denies these organizations religious freedom precisely because their religiously motivated purpose is to serve the common good of society—a purpose that government should encourage, not punish.

3. The mandate forces these institutions and others, against their conscience, to pay for and facilitate things they consider immoral. Under the mandate, the government forces religious insurers to write policies that violate their beliefs; forces religious employers and schools to subsidize and facilitate coverage that violates their beliefs; and forces conscientiously objecting employees and students to purchase coverage that violates their beliefs.

4. The federal mandate is much more sweeping than existing state mandates. Employers can generally avoid the contraceptive mandates in 28 states by self-insuring their prescription drug coverage, dropping that part of their coverage altogether, or opting for regulation under a federal law (ERISA) that pre-empts state law. The HHS mandate closes off all these avenues of relief.  HHS’ policy of mandating surgical sterilization coverage is reflected in only one state law, Vermont. HHS also chose as its model the narrowest state-level religious exemption, drafted by the ACLU and existing in only 3 states (New York, California, Oregon).

5. Many others have joined the Catholic bishops in speaking out against the mandate. Many recognize this as an assault on the broader principle of religious liberty, whether or not they agree with the Church on the underlying moral question. For example, at a February 2012 congressional hearing on this issue, testimony supporting the USCCB’s position was heard from the President of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, a distinguished Orthodox rabbi, and officials and professors from several Protestant institutions of higher learning. The nation’s two  largest non-Catholic denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, has strongly criticized the contraceptive mandate, as have leaders of the National Association of Evangelicals, Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, Evangelicals for Social Action, and the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. An online declaration supporting the Church’s position has been signed by about 28,000 Catholic and non-Catholic women, including many health professionals, academics and businesswomen.

6. The rule that created the uproar has not changed at all, but was finalized as is. After its initial proposal of August 2011 was widely criticized across the political spectrum as an attack on religious freedom, the Administration announced its final rule of February 15, 2012 as a compromise. But in fact that rule finalizes the original proposal “without change.” So religious organizations dedicated to serving people of other faiths are still not exempt as “religious employers.”

7. The proposed “accommodation” is not a current rule, but a promise that comes due beyond the point of public accountability. On February 15, besides finalizing its mandate without change, HHS also announced it will develop more regulations to apply that mandate differently to “non-exempt, non-profit religious organizations”—the charities, schools, and hospitals that were left out of the “religious employer” exemption. The regulations for this “accommodation” will be developed during a one-year delay in enforcement, their impact not felt until after the November election.

8. In its March 21 Advance Notice, HHS makes it clear that even the “accommodation” will do nothing to help objecting insurers, objecting employers that are not “religious” as defined by HHS, or individuals. In its August 2011 comments, and many times since, the Catholic bishops’ conference identified all the stakeholders in the process whose religious freedom is threatened—all employers, insurers, and individuals, not only those who meet the government’s definition of religious employers.  It is now clear that all insurers, including self insurers, must provide the coverage; and almost all individuals who pay premiums (whether enrolled in an individual plan or an employer plan) have no escape from subsidizing that coverage. Only organizations identified as “religious” (to be defined by later regulation) may qualify for the “accommodation.”

9. Even religious charities, schools, and hospitals that do qualify for the “accommodation” will still be forced to violate their beliefs. The mandate will still be applied with full force to all employees of these “second-class-citizen” religious institutions, and to the employees’ dependents such as teenage children. While the Administration says employees will not pay an additional charge for this coverage, ultimately the funds to pay for it must come from the premium dollars of the employer and employees. And when these organizations provide any health coverage to their employees, that will be the trigger for having the objectionable coverage provided “automatically” to all these employees and their dependents — even if both employer and employee object to it.

There’s more.  You can access the full fact sheet and additional information regarding the HHS Mandate at the US Bishops’ website.

It seems, judging from today’s legal response, that the Justice Department has forgotten that it was President Obama himself who dug in his heels, insisting that all employees be provided this coverage.  Today, the government dismisses the complaint by insisting that the nuns’ insurance is a “church plan” that is not required to provide contraceptive coverage.  (Remember that what this means is the employee will still receive contraceptive coverage, which will be provided “free” by the insurance carrier.)

It is not known when Justice Sotomayor will make a decision in the case.  She can rule herself or, more likely considering the case’s wide-ranging application, refer the question to the entire 9-member Supreme Court.

*     *     *     *     *

 UPDATE:  Kathryn Jean Lopez, over at The Corner, participated today in a conference call in with the Becket Fund.  She reports on the Obama Administration’s “Shocking and Unnecessary ‘War’ on Nuns Who Serve the Elderly Poor”, and she invites her readers to consider making a financial gift to the Little Sisters of the Poor.  Read her excellent insights here.

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  • Alyxander M Folmer

    I’ve never understood this issue. Nobodies religious rights are violated by having birth control made available to them. Nobody is forcing “The Pill” down anybodies throat. If their faith says it’s a sin, they don’t have to USE it.

    • kathyschiffer

      But we must PAY for it? Must we also pay for abortion? For sterilization?

      • Alyxander M Folmer

        We pay for your tax exempt churches, which sometimes violate our religious consciences. So, it doesn’t seem too unreasonable.

        • kathyschiffer

          No you don’t.

          • Alyxander M Folmer

            I’m sorry? That’s over $71,000,000,000 of annual tax revenue that the American public has to indirectly subsidize, and that’s not including the extra $1.2 billion in tax exemptions via the parsonage allowance.
            That’s about 2% of our national budget, which coincidentally is almost the exact amount we pay yearly for public education. We could DOUBLE the funding of public schools, if these churches payed their taxes.

            So don’t try to tell me we don’t pay for those churches. We pay for those in textbooks. We pay for those in teachers.

          • April

            So what! As a Catholic I pay my taxes and the State and Fed take my money to give to Planned Parenthood to kill children (oh by the way their ANNUAL TAX PAYER FUNDING FOR 2012 is $542.4 millions). Liberal hypocrites!
            IF IT IS YOUR CHOICE THEN PAY FOR YOUR OWN DAMNATION! Pay for your own murder, if it’s your choice! I WILL NOT BE AN ACCOMPLICE TO YOUR FILTHY MURDER. Don’t take the Tax payer money to kill children!

          • Alyxander M Folmer

            1- Abortion makes up 3% of Planned Parenthood’s services. (look it up, it’s public record)
            2- 543.4 Million, V.S. 71 BILLION. Meaning churches cost us over 130 times MORE than PP.

            3- NO federal funds go toward abortion services at Planned Parenthood. (Again, public record.)

            4- Your tax dollars DO pay for the death penalty. Strictly speaking you should be having more of an issue with that, (which you do pay for) than with abortion (which you don’t).

          • jenny

            PP gets $$$ from our taxes….

          • Alyxander M Folmer

            Yes, they do. None of that goes to Abortion.
            It should be mentioned that Catholic hospitals get government funding too.

          • April


            The death penalty kills criminals (not all the time though).
            Abortion kills INNOCENT BABIES!

            Get your head out of your @#$%!

            Pick on people your own size, however, FOLMER thinks it’s “OKAY” for Planned Parenthood to kill 3% of the babies that came to there FILTHY BLOOD MONEY MAKING ORGANIZATION!


            If we didn’t kill 56,000,000 people since Roe v. Wade these people would be paying taxes in the TRILLION!!!!!

            Again, get your head out of your @#$%!

            Liberal Blood Thirsty Troll!

          • jenny

            Don’t we all feel better to believe in God ?

          • Alyxander M Folmer

            For you, perhaps, but there’s a large portion of the U.S. population that doesn’t seem to think so.

          • AugustineThomas

            Yes you are sorry.. You pay a small amount of taxes for churches and they provide secularists like you, who have the highest drug abuse rates and hospital bills, with free healthcare and a place to slink home to after your immoral habits have hobbled your body even more.

          • Alyxander M Folmer

            “secularists like you, who have the highest drug abuse rates and hospital bills,”
            – Are you gonna cite your statistics there? Because unless you’ve got numbers I’m gonna call BS.

            “with free healthcare and a place to slink home to after your immoral habits have hobbled your body even more.”
            1- Really? Churches are providing free health care now? That’s news to me.
            2 – Exactly what immoral habits will you be including in your Ad Hominem harangue? I’d love to know exactly what you think I do on my down time 🙂

          • AugustineThomas

            You’re not calling bs on anything.. You’re regurgitating tired leftist myths. The most supportive studies I can find say “condoms reduce HIV 80%”.. That means when everyone is having sex, there are 80% less infections than there would be if everyone had sex and used no condoms.
            That means 20% are infected.. With monogamy, guess what! ZERO PERCENT GET INFECTED!!!

            Catholic hospitals are far more likely to treat patients for free than secularist hospitals are.

          • AugustineThomas

            The studies are very conclusive about what secularists do with their free time.. London and New York City are the two proudest secularist cities on the face of the earth, which are most leftist about passing out free condoms.. They have the highest teen STD rates on the planet.

          • nun

            Clearly your statist mentality is to tax everything to death and for what? Expand more government. This little beef you have against little old nuns is the same Iron Curtain mindset that leads to persecution. You’ve convinced yourself government should be the central focal point in everyone’s life. That government and only government is the answer. BTW your lecturing us about condoms reducing AIDS, yeah no kidding but the church you hate so much teaches abstinence. Bottom line is many religious faiths are against your Obama care you have so much faith in. Something you should learn to live with no matter how much it may burn you.

        • April

          Why don’t you learn how to write?
          “So, it doesn’t seem [to be] unreasonable.” OR
          “So, it doesn’t seem [too] unreasonable.”

          Get an education, liberal clown!

          • Alyxander M Folmer

            It’s called a typo. Get over it.

          • AugustineThomas

            The bigger problem is that you’re full of atheistic bitterness.

            For one thing, the only societies in history who haven’t murdered bitter atheists with nothing meaningful to say like you, are Christian ones who got their morality from the Church. So I’d be grateful that Christians built a country that gave you a platform for your atheistic b-tching.

          • Alyxander M Folmer

            “The bigger problem is that you’re full of atheistic bitterness.”
            1- I’m not an Atheist, though I find your assumption to be amusing.
            2- I’m not Bitter, I just don’t think a religious organization should have the right to interfere with federal healthcare legislation.

            “For one thing, the only societies in history who haven’t murdered bitter
            atheists with nothing meaningful to say like you, are Christian ones
            who got their morality from the Church. So I’d be grateful that
            Christians built a country that gave you a platform for your atheistic

            Oh what a lie! Not even a little white lie, that’s a flat out stinker!
            “Christian” nations throughout history have have an AMAZING track record for putting atheists to death. Along with just about everything else, including other types of Christians. (Exhibit A- The Inquisition) (Exhibit B- The protestant Reformation)

            Christians built this country? Have you ever read Jefferson’s Bible? He literally cut out ALL references to any god, and the divine nature of Jesus. Most of the well known founding fathers were Deists.

            As to the Atheistic “b-tching” (<– I'm sure God see's what you did there). I'm still not an Atheist, and I'm not complaining, I'm making a point. If you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen.

          • AugustineThomas

            Jefferson was a Desist. Deism is a Christian heresy. Jefferson may have been too stupid to realize that his beliefs were impossible without the Church, but I’m not!

            The men who developed the scientific method were all devout Christian believers.. I’ll take them over you, Internet Atheist (or Internet Agnostic)!

            There have been plenty of imperfect and even evil Christians–that makes sense, the Church is a place for sinners.

            Still, no religion has done a thousandth of what Christianity has done to improve the lives of all people–Christian and non-Christian.

        • AugustineThomas

          Only if secularists start paying for their skyrocketing levels of STDs, their abortions, their condoms, their pornography “sex education” classes and all the other evils they ruin society with..

          Those who regularly attend church give the highest amounts of charity and cost the state the least. Secularists like you cost more in healthcare than anyone due to their immoral lives and NEVER give a penny to charity.

      • Lozzapug

        I don’t understand this argument either – the money argument. Lots of people’s ideologies are offended by having to pay taxes towards all sorts of issues, from murderers to stay in jail rather than be executed, to Medicare, to public education, to anything that does not personally benefit them. We pay our taxes as citizens, we render unto Caesar, because we recognize that, although individuals cannot always perfectly define what is universally right for everyone in all circumstances, collective rather than individual goals are the most important principle behind governance. We live our lives according to our principles and respect others’ rights to the same. Don’t we? With all the battles to fight out there, against child poverty, mental illness, an angry electorate… this one has been a side issue for a long time.

        • kathyschiffer

          Poverty, mental illness, anger–those aren’t really so important when you’re dead, are they now? See, Catholics believe that using ELLA or other Plan-B drugs prevents a human being, flushes him or her out of the mother’s body. That is truly abhorrent to me and to the Little Sisters of the Poor. I can’t stop you from having a legal abortion; but I sure as hell don’t want to be forced to pay for it. This is not a “side issue”; it’s the signal moral issue of our time. Your failure to realize that does not make it less so.

    • Mary

      The issue is that the government is requiring people to pay for birth control and sterilization for others to use, against their conscience. If I believe it is wrong to use birth control, or if you wish to sterilize yourself, I will not stop you from using it or doing so, but I will not pay for it. The government should not force people to pay for other people’s decisions in this regard.

    • jenny

      Try taking the pill yourself, and check your health few years down the road…..

    • AugustineThomas

      My religion is most certainly being violated when you force me to murder a baby or give more free condoms to people who more free condoms have never helped.

      Look up the actual facts.. The African countries that became Christian had huge reductions in HIV numbers.. Those which were taken over by NGOs who tried to murder all their babies and get them living off of condoms, have gotten worse and worse.

      London and NYC are basically experimental laboratories for your brave new world of sexual obsession and they have the highest teen STD rates in history.. Some secularist utopia!

      • Alyxander M Folmer

        The actual fact? Are you sure you wanna go there, because actual facts don’t really help your case.


        “Independent predictors of condom use, both in HIV-positive and in HIV-negative women, included HIV testing and counseling of the male partner, having a nonmonogamous relationship, and believing condoms were not dangerous. Human immunodeficiency virus seroconversion rates decreased significantly (from 4.1 to 1.8 per 100 person-years; P<.04) in women whose partners were tested and counseled."



        "Latex condoms, when used consistently and correctly, are highly effective in preventing the sexual transmission of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. In addition, consistent and correct use of latex condoms reduces the risk of other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including diseases transmitted by genital secretions, and to a lesser degree, genital ulcer diseases. Condom use may reduce the risk for genital human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and HPV-associated diseases, e.g., genital warts and cervical cancer."

        What was that about checking the "actual facts" again?

        • AugustineThomas

          These are all leftist organizations that constantly lie about everything.

          The head of the Harvard Public Health Project agreed with the Pope and the studies he pointed to which show that countries which switched to Christian morality and followed abstinence saw almost complete eradication of HIV as an epidemic.. Those who took more free condoms from evil NGOs are still suffering from worse HIV and AIDs epidemics.

          Quick question: If condoms are all-effective, why does the gay community use condoms at the same or even higher rate than the heterosexual community, yet still report HIV rates at something like 8,000% greater?

          I love how “super smart” secularists will talk down to you about how absurd it is to believe that condoms, which “work 99% of the time”, won’t ever be used the hundredth time, in which they will break and expose both parties.

          What’s more likely is that condoms give people the feeling of security to have sex a thousand more times (not a thousand more partners, but a thousand more times).. That’s ten times that person is likely directly exposed to HIV if they’re out in the party scene (the only place where you can have that much sex).

  • Barbara Moore

    Just watching this story on TV. One of the nuns said they don’t get a salary and have to request food donations to eat. WHAT? Where is the Catholic Church, which is worth BILLIONS? They should be supporting these Nuns, at least with food. SHAME ON THE CATHOLIC CHURCH.

    • kathyschiffer

      Barbara, that is their charism–the vows which they take require them to live like that. The same is true for Mother Teresa’s order, the Missionaries of Charity. They have very few items of clothing, beg for help. They’re what are called “mendicant” orders. And the Church does help to feed the poor, clothe the naked…way more than you know.

      • Nlehtonen

        AS a small child I would read the pamphlet that my Grandmother received from the “little sisters of the poor”. Even then I was impressed with their works and dedication to the sick, the poor, and the elderly. I am 75 years old, and I remember. Their dedication comes from their faith and love of God-it has nothing to do with money! SHAME on our Government!

    • jenny

      We, who support the nuns are the Catholic Church…

  • Bigbrother

    The problem here is government should NOT be telling us “the people” how to micro manage our life. They are coming into every aspect of our life. If you don’t agree with them then you are wrong. These sisters have a right to stand up and say NO…a paper called the Constitution says so!!!!! Freedom of religious beliefs and rights.

    • Alyxander M Folmer

      “The problem here is government should NOT be telling us “the people” how to micro manage our life.”
      -But the church should?

      • jenny

        No, the church does not tell you anything if you do not want to listen, but the government does……

      • uconnchaz

        Alyxander, what is wrong with you? They are being told they HAVE to cover it. Try and pay attention please.

        • Alyxander M Folmer

          THEY don’t have to cover it. They have to provide insurance for their workers. The insurance companies are required to cover it. THEY are not required to use it. If a heart transplant is against my religion, should I be able to deny my employees the right to have insurance that would pay for that operation should they choose to have one?

  • Ninjamom

    The administration viciously goes after a group of Catholic Nuns. These women are truly doing God’s work. They take of the poor, elderly and sick with love and devotion. This is who Eric Holder and Obama target. They release this Islamic terrorist loving treasonous pig Lynne Stewart from jail early. She didn’t even serve half of her sentence. They are mentally ill.

  • Creedgirl

    I insist that Little Sisters Of The Poor must not be forced to sign anything! Also, they should not be coerced into signing anything. The sovereignty of these souls needs no justification.

  • Mike

    If the Little Sisters of the Poor believe contraception is immoral, as we presume they do, let them teach it is immoral. If they believe federal law should prohibit insurance companies from offering reproductive health services, let them lobby for changes to the law. But I hope the Supreme Court doesn’t rule in their favor if what they are asking is that they not be required to obey the law, when all the law asks is that if they have a religious objection to contraception and a moral objection to their providing contraceptive options for their employees, they request a waiver from doing so – with their objection being that without their participation reproductive health services will nonetheless be provided – and therefore, am I not correct, their argument being that nonparticipation results the same as participation and therefore their reasoning that nonparticipating in a thing they consider immoral [by participating in requesting a waiver] from that thing would be as immoral as participating.

    Now this is too much. Most people do not share their opinion. No one request they change their opinion. No one requires they do something against their stated values unless it is a claim their stated values are as much as their prohibiting their employees from a comparable level of moral standing as they claim for themselves.

    Do we really want a society in which the government supports employers rights to impose private morality upon us? Do we think such government would be nonintrusive government? If an employer feels an act, not otherwise illegal, not generally considered immoral, is immoral to him should he be free to impose his restrictions upon us? If he feels it is immoral to drink or smoke might he prohibit our spending our earnings as his employee on drinks or smokes?

    There are those of us who believe reproductive health services minimize opportunities for abortion. We, in good conscious, see the ACA and its reproductive health requirements as a means to fewer abortions. Any argument about the indirect consequences of one’s acts or inactions should consider all possible views about indirect consequences and persons of strong ethics should not permit themselves to be baited, as I believe the Little Sisters of the Poor have permitted themselves to be done, into being shills for other persons with ulterior political motives.

  • garth

    Conclusion, the little sisters of the poor are little pains in the A$$…

  • Gary

    Roberts said it’s legal as a tax. Obama keeps insisting it’s a Mandate. Roberts said not legal as a mandate . End of discussion .Obamacare IE the afordable( BULLSH*T) care act is not legal or Constitutional!!!!!!