10th Circuit Rules First Amendment Protections Don’t Apply to Little Sisters of the Poor

10th Circuit Rules First Amendment Protections Don’t Apply to Little Sisters of the Poor July 14, 2015

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Goat_Girl https://www.flickr.com/photos/112363286@N08/
Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Goat_Girl https://www.flickr.com/photos/112363286@N08/

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the Little Sisters of the Poor are not affiliated with a specific church and they are a non-profit, so the First Amendment doesn’t apply to them.

Ditto for the Christian Brothers Services and Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust, the Catholic organization through which the Little Sisters buy their insurance.

While that may sound a bit off-the cuff, it’s the gist of the ruling.

This is how the on-going war against people of faith is played out. It rides in on the back of the legal sophistry that the First Amendment only applies to recognized churches and then only to what is done within the aegis of that recognized church. The verbiage is to limit “freedom of religion” to “freedom to worship.” This kind of limitation effectively destroys our most cherished freedoms, including freedom of speech as well as freedom of religion.

The 10th Circuit has bought into this fiction big time, because … well … because they are idiots. Or rather, because they are ideologues. But, to paraphrase Mark Twain, I repeat myself.

There is a growing — and I mean rapidly growing — opinion in this country that We the People should begin to ignore the courts. That is a dangerous notion that I will write about at length later. But the public attitude underlying it has its roots in this kind of absurd ruling. This is a re-writing and abrogation of the First Amendment that damages the freedoms and liberties of every American citizen today and into future generations.

The people who support this are throwing away their own freedoms for no other reason than a desire to get at someone whose opinion and beliefs they do not share. The courts are playing fool to this because — and this seems obvious — at least a number of members of the judiciary are ideologues with only a narrow understanding of their responsibilities to our country.

This particular move is a result of the HHS Mandate which is a result of the hubris of a president who seems addicted to an imperial view of himself and his office. How many times has President Obama made statements that he can enact policy without Congress? How many times has Congress answered him in the affirmative?

Congress has always had the power to rescind the HHS Mandate. They did not have to let it go into effect in the first place. They have not used this power in any way except as a campaign tool to win elections. If campaign promises were Congressional action, this would be an entirely different country. It would be a country in which We the People would have some hope of making a difference when we vote.

As it is, most of us have figured out that, no matter who we elect, they end up lying to us, ignoring us and doing things that hurt us. Why should we be surprised when the judges these folks appoint behave in the same way?

The 10th Circuit does not necessarily have the last say on this issue. The Supreme Court can chose to hear the case and overturn this ruling. The question is, will they?

As for the Little Sisters of the Poor, they intend to continue in their ministry and stay faithful to their faith. This is the challenge and the example for each and every one of us.

From CNA Daily News here at Patheos:

Disappointment follows ruling against Little Sisters in mandate case

Denver, Colo., Jul 14, 2015 / 11:29 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Little Sisters of the Poor have reiterated their commitment to following their conscience as they care for the poor and dying, following a federal appeals court ruling that they must obey the federal contraception mandate.

“As Little Sisters of the Poor, we simply cannot choose between our care for the elderly poor and our faith,” said Mother Provincial Sr. Loraine Marie Maguire.

“And we should not have to make that choice, because it violates our nation’s commitment to ensuring that people from diverse faiths can freely follow God’s calling in their lives. For over 175 years, we have served the neediest in society with love and dignity. All we ask is to be able to continue our religious vocation free from government intrusion.”

Sr. Maguire responded to a Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling against the Little Sisters of the Poor on July 14.

The sisters are among several hundred plaintiffs that have challenged the federal contraception mandate, which requires employers to offer health insurance plans covering contraception, sterilization and some drugs that can cause early abortions.

Employers who fail to comply with the mandate face crippling penalties. In the case of the Little Sisters, the fines could amount to around $2.5 million a year, or about 40 percent of the $6 million the Sisters beg for annually to run their ministry.

Met with a wave of protest, the contraception mandate has undergone a number of revisions. However, the sisters say that it still requires them to violate their beliefs.


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56 responses to “10th Circuit Rules First Amendment Protections Don’t Apply to Little Sisters of the Poor”

  1. You had me up until you began to rant about imperial presidencies, etc. The Tenth Circuit Court is wrong, and I suspect that they will be overturned. If not, then possibly civil disobedience is in the future. But, you are wrong as well for your political screed.

  2. This decision is insane.
    “When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”
    I believe that is a basis for ignoring some of these dictatorial rulings of the judicial class.
    As for Congress being able to rescind the HHS mandate, yes, they do. And they have used it for politics. However they cannot overturn a veto the way the vote stands now.
    The only way our system works is if everyone is self-disciplined and obeys the law. Everyone!

  3. Actually, the decision found the First Amendment does apply, when one fills out a single-page form asking for it.

  4. The government is playing a dangerous game. As you said, “There is a growing — and I mean rapidly growing — opinion in this country that We the People should begin to ignore the courts”

    The more absurd the laws and rulings, and the more obviously that the Constitution is being ignored in favor of a certain ideology, the more they invite civil chaos.

  5. I guess Obama drew a red line for the nuns and they crossed it. He couldn’t back down to them when he had already backed down to Assad. You know, those Little Sisters might actually have weapons of mass destruction. The mistake the Sisters made was that they violated the Left’s sexual ethics – chastity – instead of just gasing people. Obama would have let the gasing of people go, but chastity, no that’s a grave matter.

    Rebecca, did you read Michelle Malkin’s piece today on PP’s selling of fetal body parts? It’s a must read. Here:


  6. It’s a strong piece Manny, thanks for the link. To be honest, I’m still disgusted with Ms Malkin for attacking Pope Francis.

  7. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the Little Sisters of the Poor are not affiliated with a specific church and they are a non-profit, so the First Amendment doesn’t apply to them.

    I am not a lawyer, I’ve only skimmed the ruling quickly, and I’m hardly an expert on the bizarre intricacies of the ACA. It’s quite possible I’ve missed something.

    However, that synopsis appears a grossly inaccurate representation of the ruling. More exactly, it seems that court instead ruled the accommodation offered by the state is not a “substantial burden” on their religious exercise; as such, it would appear that the same reasoning from the court ruling would apply even if the plaintiff were a church (with more than 50 full-time employees, that is thus subject to the ACA “employer mandate” requiring that employers provide eligible coverage).

    On the upside, appeal to the SCOTUS seems very likely, which might finally get them to address the legal definition of “substantial burden”.

  8. Yes, filling out a form saying that you object to something that you object to, and that therefore you won’t do it, doesn’t seem to me to be a “substantial burden.” But I am not a lawyer; we’ll see.

  9. The sisters think it is a “substantial burden” to them, to the extent that they will risk financial ruin to not comply. The government does not have the power to judge that a religious belief is substantial or not, they must take our word for it. It really is that simple. The court does not have the power to tell a Catholic which of their beliefs and practices are important or not. If the sisters refuse to pay for contraceptives, no matter how many layers of accounting and obfuscation the government tries to put in the way, the sisters will refuse to pay for contraceptives.

  10. The form effectively says “I don’t want to pay for contraceptives, so this third party will pay for them for me.” It’s like me saying “I don’t want to give pornography to my kids, so this bookstore will do it for me.” Would you sign that? On top of that, the “third party” in this case is the sisters themselves. They are self-insured, with another Catholic organization as the administrator of the plan. What does all these levels of accounting gimmicks and obfuscation accomplish other than to convince gullible statists that they are not really forcing the sisters to pay for contraception? They have to pay for them according to this “accommodation” and court ruling, because it is not a “substantial burden.” It is so good when a government court tells you which of your religious beliefs are important or not. That is what the First Amendment is all about, the government telling you what is important in your two thousand year old religion.

  11. I believe churches have explicit exemptions. This being understood, I believe the article’s point was accurate. There are several IRS designations of non-profits, and if they were granted the tax-exempt status of a secular charity and not an explicit religious org., that would be the difference.

  12. What? Backed down to Assad? What?

    Obama funds Islamic fundamentalist militias who are inserted and supplied through Turkey and Jordan, killing Christians, Alawis, and Kurds. But he backed down to Assad?

  13. The imperial presidency has been a problem at least since Nixon, if not the Roosevelt cousins. I didn’t think that was an issue.

  14. Is that sarcasm? I’m not picking it up if you are. Clearly Obama backed down to Assad after he drew that red line.

  15. The problem is that filling out the form enables the employees to get contraception coverage, thus still cooperation in evil. It’s purely for show – the form really does nothing, and the coverage is the same no matter whether the form is filled out or not. So, the form is basically a feeble, failed attempt to appease the conscience of the sisters and those like them. So much for religious freedom.

  16. They don’t get to judge whether the religious belief is substantial. They do get to judge whether it is sincerely held, which here is undisputed; but they also get to judge whether the infringement is a “substantial burden” — as that term is used in the federal RFRA statute (42 USC § 2000bb) but not therein defined. Since the current federal executive and the Little Sister disagree, we have a controversy under the laws, which per Article III is a controversy within the power of the judiciary.

    Of course, you might argue it is beyond their moral authority to so decide; however, that’s a different question from not having the power.

  17. I was not able to turn up anything indicating such exemption, and a few resources put out by church umbrella organizations claiming churches were subject to the Employer Mandate (if they had sufficiently numerous employees).

    Also, while there are several tax-exempt statuses, 501(c)3 covers both non-religious charitable and religious organizations; I’m not seeing indications that the IRS makes the kind of distinction you’re suggesting.

  18. How about having your school district mandate that all 3rd graders will be attending a sex ed class that goes into detail on the ‘mechanics’ of heterosexual and homosexual sex and the ‘safe’ ways to perform it. And by the way, parents are asked to pay separately for it. You formally object to the school board, not to the cost but to the morality of sending your 3rd grader to such a class. You want an opt-out on moral/religious grounds. Then the school board comes back and says you can’t opt out of your child’s attendance but sign this form and we’ll use a scholarship fund to pay for your child so they can still attend.

    Is that acceptable? Or is it just a cost-shifting that does nothing to address the participation you morally object to?

  19. This does not originate with the IRS. See below or at original link: http://obamacarefacts.com/obamacare-birth-control/ .

    This was a well-advertised “compromise” a couple years ago when the Catholic Church raised loud objections. Note, however, the precise wording on the website. They distinguish between houses of worship and “all other religious employers”. The link for the latter is dated 13 July this year, so it seems to depend on the outcome of the case in reference. I’d be interested to see if this has not been entirely rephrased recently.

    “How to Tell If a Plan Covers Birth Control (Exemptions and Insurer Choices)

    As of July 2015 all plans, except for the following,
    must provide at least one method from each of the 18 FDA approved birth
    control categories at no out-of-pocket costs:

    Religious employer health plans (houses of worship don’t have to provide coverage. For all other religious employers women are provided contraceptive coverage through a third party).”

  20. If you don’t pay taxes as a group, then you don’t get to make certain types of speech, it’s pretty simple.

  21. But filling out the form removes the SIsters from paying for or in any way being directly involved with the employees’ coverage.

    If you want your employees to use their compensation only for things you approve of, you’d need to pay them in scrip that’s only usable at the company store.

  22. So, Jude, you’ve never read the First Amendment? Individual freedom of speech and freedom of assembly are absolute.
    Taxes have nothing to do with it.

  23. Actual health care, like Ib-Gyn appointments are covered. The patients can pay for their own birth control. This is so simple and obviously intrusive.

  24. Totally off topic. Manny, PF said early this week that he needs to study some economics before he goes to Cuba and the U.S. In September, thank God.
    Ps, Never, ever take economics advice from an Argentine.

  25. Not going to get into a discussion of why access to contraceptive services is health care.

    The law says that employees are entitled to this as part of their standard coverage. The employer objects. The government provides a mechanism which respects the rights of the employee while removing the employer from direct participation. It seems a reasonable compromise to me, and not particularly intrusive.

  26. No, it really doesn’t remove them. It’s the same shell game as when Planned Parenthood says, “Government money won’t go towards abortions.” Who cares if it does or not? The government money not going towards abortions just frees up other money to go towards abortions.

  27. It is amazing how a “right” no one heard of a few years ago has become a foundation of western civilization. You would almost think the argument is about something else.

  28. If you “don’t think” that, you don’t think, period. The analogy could not be closer: the government imposing somethign that outrages your conscience and then offering a pretend compromise that is no compromise at all, and having the nerve to blame you when you point out the gross hypocrisy and bullying brutality of the procedure. It sounds to me like you are not aware of what conscience is.

  29. The proposed scenario involves parents’ rights over the education of their minor children, which is a whole different can of worms from employers’ rights over the health care of their adult employees.

    They may both involve issues of conscience, but they’re not the same issues.

  30. Or just about any South American. A good deal of them have been socialists and outright Marxists. When I think of it that way, PF might actually be moderate. 😉

  31. There is not and never was proof of any such thing. The claim has been significantly debunked in the media (esp. by Seymour Hersh). Chemical weapons use almost certainly by rebels, smuggled in through Turkey. Sarin gas used in Syria was tested by British intelligence and did not = Syrian stockpiles.

    Attack on Syria was planned anyway – needed a catalyst. Putin’s diplomacy – even permitting Obama to mostly save face – prevented it, so they switched to a slower Plan B – using ISIS as excuse for totally disregarding Syrian sovereignty, openly funding rebels (who often fight with ISIS), for air-drops of military supplies (sometimes ending up with ISIS), bombing Syrian oil refineries, and threatening deeper American involvement. Now we see this week in the news that UK lied for past year about attacking Syria as well.

    In any case, it is rather clear Assad did not do the sarin attack and Obama, who would have had no moral or legal right to bomb Syria had Assad done so, was lying about the matter and only prevented by external forces. That you think this makes Obama look weak makes me wonder about what kind of neocon propaganda you read and listen to.

  32. Individuals can do whatever they want.

    And when they come together, they can do whatever they want.

    However, if they organize themselves as a legal entity and then don’t want to pay taxes, then that is their choice.

    They can pay taxes as their group and then they can do whatever they want.

  33. Figures that you would not consider conscience a central issue. Or state tyranny.

  34. The “accommodation” form effectively says “I don’t want to pay for contraceptives, so
    this third party will pay for them for me.” Yes, that is what the form does. Re Ja’s example is exactly right. And the court says “that isn’t a substantial burden, because you won’t have to pay for it.” On top of that, the “third party” in this case
    is the sisters themselves. They are self-insured, with another Catholic
    organization as the administrator of the plan. What does all these
    levels of accounting gimmicks and obfuscation accomplish other than to
    convince gullible statists that they are not really forcing the sisters
    to pay for contraception? It is so good when a government court tells you which of your
    religious beliefs are important or not. That is what the First Amendment
    is all about, the government telling you what is important in your two
    thousand year old religion.

  35. The age of the religion is immaterial.

    No rights are infinite. When the rights of two different parties are in conflict, the courts decide.

    In this case, they’ve decided that the Little Sisters don’t face an unreasonable burden with the proposed accommodation.

    Whether the Christian Brothers have a case, as they are themselves a religiously-based organization, is another question. It will be interesting to see what happens.

    Of course, we could get rid of the whole mess by getting rid of employer-provided health insurance. But I don’t see any kind of single-payer scheme being implemented any time soon; neither am I in favor of giving people a few extra dollars in their paychecks and throwing them to the wolves, aka the medical profession and the insurance companies.

  36. “Who cares if it does or not?” All the people who are adamant about “I don’t want my tax dollars funding abortions,” that’s who.

    And if the government grants disappeared overnight, I strongly doubt that PP would stop providing contraceptive services, pregnancy testing and prenatal health screenings, general GYN care, men’s health services, cancer screenings, STD testing, etc, etc, and devote all their remaining funds to providing abortions, which is a very small part of what they do.

    There are very many women falling through the cracks in our current employer-based health-care system, who’d have a hard time finding GYN care without PP’s clinics.

  37. I don’t think you got the point. If someone’s son with a gambling addiction asks his dad for $100 and promises that he won’t use it on gambling, it would still be a bad idea to give it to him, because he still now has an extra $100 overall, which frees up other money in the budget to be used for gambling.

  38. My point in the age of Christianity was that we didn’t just make up the beliefs for the convenience of today’s disagreements. The opposition to contraception has been around for a long time. The idea that we should name someone to supply it for our employees and think it no big deal, well, that’s the new idea on the block.

    The court doesn’t think it is an unreasonable burden, but the sisters are facing ruinous fines if they don’t submit, and they are willing to do that. Does that suggest to you that the nuns think it is an unreasonable burden? Why is the fine for providing insurance without free contraception and sterilization HIGHER than the fine for not providing insurance at all? It is, as, of course, you know.

  39. I don’t see it as an “attack on people of faith” but rather a protection for nonbelievers from people of faith who insist on putting their religious beliefs into the lives of those whom clearly do not want it there.

  40. You don’t seem to be following the conversation.

    The government, running according to what amounts to liberal protestantism, is forcing business owners to pay for morally objectionable services that are broadly available without burdening the owners of the businesses.

    In sum, you are shoving your ideology on others. No one is
    stopping anyone from using contraceptives. You, for some reason, feel you have the right to make other people pay for them.

  41. Freedom of speech is not related to tax exempt status, except that a non-profit cannot endorse specific candidates.

  42. That’s completely unrelated to the Constitution. Your ideology doesn’t give you control of other people. As far as I can see, this is about acceptance of your ideology, not freedom of speech.

  43. I’m what way? Please cite the law in question, or it looks like you are just trying to silence people you don’t agree with.