SCOTUS to Hear Little Sister of the Poor Challenge
By Hadley Heath
The Supreme Court just announced that it will hear a new challenge to ObamaCare's mandate that all employers provide first-dollar coverage for all FDA-approved contraceptives. This case is a lot like the one brought last summer by Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., but this time, the challengers are non-profit groups including hospitals, universities, and charities. Because of their religious affiliations and convictions, these groups do not want to be a part of providing contraceptives that they find morally objectionable.
One of these groups is Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of Catholic nuns who care for the sick and elderly poor. These sisters have taken vows of chastity, meaning not only do they oppose birth control, but they have no need of it. IWF is proud to be supportive of their case through the amicus brief that we filed this summer. Here's an excerpt from our brief:
As with the Hobby Lobby case, this case is about more than contraception. It is about the principles of liberty that animate our Constitution. It is about empowering women to choose the healthcare and salary options that best fit their needs. And it is about empowering charitable employers, many lead by women, to follow their deeply held religious convictions—regardless of the form of their charitable entity. Women do not check their religious liberty rights at the office door.
The Obama Administration has made a blanket exception to this mandate for churches, but for other religious non-profits, they offered a so-called accommodation: Instead of directly providing insurance coverage for the drugs and devices in question, the non-profit employers must sign paperwork instructing a third party to provide the coverage to their employees.
This is troubling not just because it burdens the religious freedom of non-profit employers, but because it puts the federal government in a place it doesn't belong, deciding who is sufficiently "religious enough" to get an exemption. We might all think that surely nuns are religious enough, but it's government making this distinction in the first place that is troubling.
It's good news that the Court has decided to take up this case. If the Court applies the same logic as in Hobby Lobby v. Burwell, they will see that the non-profit employers are facing a substantial burden to their religious freedom, even under the "accommodation," and that there is a better way for the government to attempt to provide broad access to contraceptives.
It is suprising that the Obama Administration has not yet realized this: They lost in Hobby Lobby, and these other cases have been working their way through district and appellate courts for years now. Did they not see this coming? Now they will have to deal with the optics of facing nuns, hospitals, universities, and other religious charities in Court. These charities do so much good in society; they simply want no part in ObamaCare's contraception mandate. But the Obama Administration would prefer to shut them down, through backbreaking fines for noncompliance, than allow them to continue providing education and healthcare services to those most in need. Mind-blowing.