Nuns lose latest court battle to avoid contraception mandate

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Supporters of the Affordable Care Act celebrate after the Supreme Court up held the law in the 6-3 vote at the Supreme Court in Washington on June 25, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-NUNS-CONTRACEPTION, originally transmitted on July 14, 2015 or with RNS-HOLLMAN-COLUMN, originally transmitted on March 21, 2016.

Supporters of the Affordable Care Act celebrate after the Supreme Court up held the law in the 6-3 vote at the Supreme Court in Washington on June 25, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Joshua Roberts *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-NUNS-CONTRACEPTION, originally transmitted on July 14, 2015 or with RNS-HOLLMAN-COLUMN, originally transmitted on March 21, 2016.

(RNS) The Little Sisters of the Poor — nuns who have refused to comply with the Affordable Care Act contraception mandate — lost their latest court case Tuesday (July 14).

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit ruled that the Little Sisters must comply with the law’s requirement that they allow their insurers to offer free contraception coverage to employees.

There is an “accommodation” in the mandate that would allow the sisters to sign a paper that stated their religious objections to the Department of Health and Human Services mandate and thereby allow the insurers to step in with no other involvement by the Catholic sisters. However, the Little Sisters insisted such a letter would still violate their religious convictions because it would enable something they see as wrong to take place.

The appellate court ruled that the accommodation would “not substantially burden their religious exercise” under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act “or infringe upon their First Amendment rights.” 

The ruling says: “Having to file paperwork or otherwise register a religious objection, even if one disagrees with the ultimate aim of the law at issue, does not alone substantially burden religious exercise.” And it calls the accommodation “at least as easy as obtaining a parade permit, filing a simple tax form, or registering to vote — in other words, a routine, brief administrative task.”

On Tuesday, the Provincial of the Little Sisters of the Poor, Mother Loraine Marie Maguire,  issued a statement saying, “We simply cannot choose between our care for the elderly poor and our faith. … All we ask is to be able to continue our religious vocation free from government intrusion.”

Becket Fund senior counsel Mark Rienzi, lead attorney for the Little Sisters, said in a press release that it is “a national embarrassment that the world’s most powerful government insists … it must crush the Little Sisters’ faith and force them to participate.” The sisters are considering whether to appeal to the Supreme Court, the release said.

Demonstrators rallied at the Supreme Court on June 30, 2014 after the justices sided with the evangelical owners of Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., ruling 5-4 that the arts-and-crafts chain does not have to offer insurance for types of birth control that conflict with company owners’ religious beliefs. After the decision, those who were disappointed continued to stand outside the Supreme Court. Religion News Service photo by Heather Adams

RNS photo by Heather Adams

Demonstrators rallied at the Supreme Court on June 30, 2014 after the justices sided with the evangelical owners of Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., ruling 5-4 that the arts-and-crafts chain does not have to offer insurance for types of birth control that conflict with company owners’ religious beliefs. After the decision, those who were disappointed continued to stand outside the Supreme Court. Religion News Service photo by Heather Adams

Last year the Supreme Court created an exemption for small, family-held corporations whose owners objected to providing contraception coverage on the basis of religion. It came in the case of craft store chain Hobby Lobby, whose evangelical owners objected to four of the 20 forms of contraception approved by the Food and Drug Administration because they considered them to cause abortions. Hobby Lobby continues to cover 16 forms of birth control.

On Friday (July 10), the White House issued a revised version of the mandate, now nicknamed the Hobby Lobby Rule. Religious owners of small companies can avail themselves of the same “accommodation” offered to faith-based groups such as the Little Sisters.

The Boston Pilot, published by the Archdiocese of Boston, on Friday reiterated the opposition of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, saying “it still requires religious organizations to facilitate activity that violates their religious beliefs.

“(T)he mandate continues to substantially burden the religious liberty of stakeholders with religious objections to the mandated coverage,” said Anthony Picarello and Michael Moses, general counsel and associate general counsel for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in The Pilot.

The bishops are not satisfied with any form of accommodation being offered. They want the mandate removed so no faith-based group or religious owner of any business of any size would be required to allow contraception coverage for its workers.

Picarello summed it up in 2012: “If I quit this job and opened a Taco Bell, I’d be covered by the mandate.”

The American Civil Liberties Union called Tuesday’s ruling “a huge victory for women.” Brigitte Amiri, an ACLU senior staff attorney, said in a statement that the Little Sisters case, like other challenges by religious groups to the mandate, is a misuse of the claim to religious freedom. “Religious freedom doesn’t give the plaintiffs in these cases the right to discriminate against their female employees.”

LM/MG END GROSSMAN

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  • Larry

    Unlike Hobby Lobby, the nuns could not be seen as providing contraceptive coverage due to the opt out provision. Their “religious freedom” does not extend to preventing employees from obtaining contraception from another source.

    The bishops are arguing that anyone under their direct control should not have access to contraceptives, even if it is not being provided by themselves. There is nothing legitimate or proper about such a demand.

    It is not in any way, shape or form, an exercise in religious freedom. One’s religious belief is not the basis for making demands on the healthcare of others. Especially when one has no direct hand in providing it. This is nothing but pure coercion.

  • “The bishops are not satisfied with any form of accommodation being offered.”

    What a public nuisance.
    It is not enough for Christians to be free to believe – That isn’t good enough. They insist everyone else follow their rules, too.

    And that is the problem. Contraceptive medication is not just for contraception. Millions of women need to take the pill as a treatment for all sorts of gynecological conditions; Endometriosis for example.

    Why should clergy feel so comfortable bossing and bullying women in this way? Not only are these narrow, dogmatic beliefs against contraception primitive and dangerous – they argue for the abandonment of all rational approaches.

  • Shawnie5

    Jack is very short in “stature”.

  • Stan Westerland

    Mother Theresa was a very evil person who made many poor people suffer.

  • Larry

    Plus the subject is contraception, not abortion.

    Despite the claims of the Catholic Church, one prevents the other. 🙂

  • Dominic

    There should be no way the government can force these nuns to permit contraceptive coverage in their insurance plan. Contraceptives are cheaply available out of pocket, so why this slap in the face to the Catholic Church? This is a callous disregard for an institution that will forever be pro life in the Catholic definition. And all I hear is the lie that religious liberties will not be infringed on. More liberties are being trampled on every day. Can’t the government just mail out condoms and BC pills to its citizens? THIS is insulting, absolutely insulting.

  • Larry

    “There should be no way the government can force these nuns to permit contraceptive coverage in their insurance plan. ”

    They aren’t.

    Read the article closely.

    The nuns get to refuse and another insurance plan not funded by them picks up the coverage. They objected to OUTSIDE insurance companies providing contraception.

    Now that the issue is all cleared up, can we get an informed opinion from you?

  • cnyspirit

    Remember when the ACLU actually defended Civil Liberties? Should update the acronym to Anti-Civil Liberties Union.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Contraceptives are easily available and at a very cheap price thus there is no need to use government coercive power to involve anyone else in the providing of such in any way, shape, or manner. This issue is only being pushed to make religious people burn incense on government altars. And,sadly, it is not hard to find bigots who will always choose government power over the First Amendment

  • Max Fenster

    Just a side question… If the Nuns allow a third party to provide birth control to their employees, and no employee opts to use the birth control, did a sin happen?

  • Greg1

    Many birth control types are abortifacients, and can kill a child in the womb. So these nuns need to stay steadfast in their battle. But I would encourage the nuns not to waste their time with these silly courts these days, as they are all towing the Leftist agenda, and are not worth the money, or their time. Just don’t go along with it. What is Obama going to do, the same thing he is doing to Colorado, which is ignoring federal law by growing and selling pot? He is a hand wringer; just tell the courts to go away, and do your own thing. That is the lesson we’ve all learned from the Left. To the courts in the USA: beat it.

  • Dominic

    Oh, you’re right, Larry. In that case, the obtaining of contraceptives by employees would never be known by the nuns, and certainly does not indict the Church as hypocritical. The choice is left to the insured to make. Thanks for the slap on the back of the head.

  • larry

    What coercive power?

    The only people looking to use coercion are the bishops. The nuns have the option not to cover contraceptives and LET ANOTHER INSURER provide them.

    Wouldn’t it had been wonderful if you read the article and understood the issues before spouting off?

  • larry

    The nuns get to opt out of coverage. They do not need to dictate what alternate options their employees should have, especially if they do not come from the religious organization. Its like all the wingnuts have their canned speeches and none of them bothered to get the facts straight beforehand.

    This is a neutering of the Hobby Lobby decision which actually recognizes a desire for employers not to cover this stuff. Employees still get the contraception THEY ARE ASKING FOR AND DEMANDED FROM THE ACA. The nuns have no part in their procurement Their hands and consciences are clean. Religious freedom is not dictating that others follow your faith. That is the opposite of such things.

  • David Farrell

    If it can be created by man it can be taken away by man. The political winds will eventually swing the other way just like Clinton passing DOMA.

  • Greg1

    If the non-Catholics who work for the Little Sisters of the Poor want contraceptive coverage, they should just get their healthcare through one of Obama’s exchanges. Isn’t why they set those things up to begin with? This administration is loaded a bunch of oddballs. Little Sisters, just ignore these people, and get on with your lives. Follow the lead of the Left, just ignore any law you don’t agree with.

  • Greg1

    I would challenge everyone to go to the Drudge Report, and watch the undercover video filmed with a Planned Parenthood official who is now taking orders for fetal organs. It is very disturbing.

  • larry

    “If the non-Catholics who work for the Little Sisters of the Poor want contraceptive coverage, they should just get their healthcare through one of Obama’s exchanges. ”

    Why should only non-catholics be permitted to use the ACA exchange?

    Its none of the business of the employers what is provided in their healthcare coverage if they are not the ones paying for it. Being an employer or a member of clergy doesn’t entitle you to controlling all aspects of an employee’s life outside the workplace.

  • MarkE

    So, let me get this right. Roman Catholics want to avoid any government “coercion” against requirements that violate their moral beliefs. When that meant pacifists objecting to their tax dollars being spent on nuclear weapons or unjustified wars, it wasn’t a violation of their First Amendment rights to make them obey the law. But when it’s contraception, it is. Huh??

  • Larry

    The video is a fake.

  • MarkE

    Funny how the Catholic nuns and bishops are fighting so hard against even being tangentially associated with contraceptives, yet the majority of American Catholics use them and think its ok – that their church is out-of-step with the realities of life. Seems the bishops and nuns may have given up on their lay people and are going with the fundamentalists.

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  • TheCountess

    No wonder here about God turning them over to their ‘reprobate’ minds. Are we past the ‘falling’ away? 2015 is a ‘marked’ year.

  • TheCountess

    One of the biggest businesses in the world. Fetal tissue.

  • Larry

    According to you, fetii are the secret ingredient of non-dairy creamer, especially Nestle’s Cremora.

    Ahem…..
    Months ago I reported in comments about Pepsi and Nabisco products of which Creamora is one (both these products have been removed from my diet), have been given tissue for the sole purpose of enhancing flavor.

    No, I am never going to let you live that comment down. 🙂

  • Greg1

    Larry, you have what is known as “eclipse of the conscience.” That is when there is either a deadened conscience, or a conscience that refuses to see Truth because of a blockage. Let’s explain it in simple Kindergarten language: Catholics are bound by God Almighty to follow the teachings of the Church. Any Catholic using contraceptives, other than Natural Family Planning, or abstinence, are not following the teachings of the Church, the teachings that have been given to her by God Almighty. It is not the Church you are disobeying when Catholics do these things, but Almighty God. Please Larry, remove the veil, and open wide your eyes.

  • Jack

    Larry, the subject is contraception, not abortion…agreed. Stan, Mother Theresa was not “a very evil person.” Would you give up your entire adult life to serve some of the poorest people on the planet? I don’t think so.

  • Jack

    The problem with that argument of inconsistency, MarkE, is that it can be turned right around and directed back at you. I happen to believe the two are not fully analogous, but if they are, you are caught in the same trap you just laid for others.

  • Jack

    I am not Catholic and I have no problem whatsoever with contraception, but your argument regarding the Catholic Church doesn’t make any logical sense. If that church truly believes that contraception is against God’s will, then obviously you can’t expect it to change its stance just to please Catholic parishioners. The whole idea is to put what it believes to be God’s will first, ahead of all other opinions. Otherwise, it would be violating the dictates of its own conscience.

  • Jack

    Larry hears no coercion and he sees no coercion….because he has his fingers in his ears and his eyes shut tightly. Obviously the entire issue revolves the very issue of government coercion.

    If Larry were a lawyer for a mobster, he’d be saying, “Mafia? What Mafia? There is no Mafia!”

    The question is not whether government coercion is involved, but whether it is justifiable in this circumstance.

  • Jack

    It’s Shorty posing as Shawnie….

    I thought I heard something squeaking.

    How are you doing, little fellow? Still smarting from the whipping that Shawnie gave you?

  • larry

    No Greg, I don’t find any kind of rational or moral arguments to be made against contraception. Nor am I so overcome with delusions of grandeur and narcissism as to demand that others be coerced into following such decisions either.

    “Any Catholic using contraceptives, other than Natural Family Planning, or abstinence, are not following the teachings of the Church, the teachings that have been given to her by God Almighty.”

    That is your opinion. but ultimately it is their decision, not that of clergy, not yours. It certainly is of no business for employers who have no hand in the procurement of the contraceptive whatsoever.

    Why do you hate freedom and personal privacy so much?

  • larry

    You are deliberately missing the point. The church is not providing the contraception in any way. They have no business making decisions for employees who are receiving them from other insurance companies.

    They don’t want their employees to have access to contraception from outside sources, but its not their decision. There is no issue of conscience here, because they have no hand in the decisions being made. Just a desire to dominate the lives of people in an inappropriate manner.

  • dmj76

    What does “marked year” refer to?

  • dmj76

    Why is contraception considered so wicked? Can someone enlighten me on this issue? ( I am concerned here with basic contraception, not abortion.)

  • Greg1

    Catholic institutions cannot accommodate secular demands which violate their Faith. Catholics are duty bound to follow the teachings of the Church. If they wish to engage in activities that run counter to their Faith, then they know fully well that they will need to seek those sinful things outside of Church institutions.

  • Larry

    Typical Jack. Personal insults in the place of an intelligent point to make. Your post was too ridiculous for words.

    What is coercive about letting employees use an outside insurance company for their desired contraception?

    Nothing. Its justifiable because people were demanding that the Obamacare exchanges cover contraception and lobbied to have it included. If their company’s employers won’t provide them, then why shouldn’t they use the outside exchanges out of the nun’s control?

    The only people who are trying to use coercion are the nuns. They want to control their workers’ contraception choices even outside of the workplace and employer relationship. That is why they lost here and Hobby Lobby won before.

  • Larry

    “If they wish to engage in activities that run counter to their Faith, then they know fully well that they will need to seek those sinful things outside of Church institutions.”

    Which is exactly what is happening. There we are in agreement. You have no real objection to what is going on. The Church institutions are not involved here. The employees are doing it on their own.

  • Bernardo

    First things first.

    Practicing safe sex is your responsibility not the Little Sisters of the Poor or the USA taxpayers.

    Condoms cost less than 50 cents. If you cannot afford one, you should not be having sex.

  • Bernardo

    Contraception is not wicked and the RCC approves of it as long as it is what they consider natural. Scientifically, all contraceptive methods have some natural basis. Unfortunately,the RCC is blind to this.

  • dmj76

    If some sexually active person cannot afford birthcontrol, taxpayers should be delighted to pay for it – much less social expense, misery , poverty. People are going to be sexual, and if they cannot afford birth control we should all be glad to pay for it.

    Why would we not want to pay for poor peoples birth control? Is there a supernatural dimension here I am missing?

  • Jack

    Of course it’s coercion, Larry. The government is trying to make the nuns do what they don’t want to do.

    Again, the question is whether or not it’s justified……but to argue that it isn’t coercion is beyond silly.

    Larry thinks he can redefine words or limit their obvious application when they don’t suit his purposes….another reality-bending exercise on his part.

  • Jack

    Yes, Larry, it was a 100% conspiracy…..even the words the doctor spoke were dubbed in by those ee-vile pro-lifers. In fact, the doctor wasn’t even there….they manipulated an image of her to make it look like she was present. She was actually vacationing in Taihiti at the time.

    The moon landing in 1969 was also a myth, and the 9/11 attacks were an inside job by the ghost of John Belushi, with the help of Don Rickles and Jon Stewart.

  • Jack

    No, Larry, I am addressing Mark’s point. He’s saying the Catholic Church should anchor its views on the majority of its members, as though it were a political party or the country club up the road. The point is that it’s none of the above.

  • Bernardo

    Yes, you are missing the cost of a condom, the only contraceptive method that protects one from both pregnancy and STDs other than abstinence and masturbation which cost nothing.

  • dmj76

    Hi

    Maybe the gov could drop condoms from helicopters!! Free to everyone!!

  • Bernardo

    Condoms are available over the counter. Make the Pill (type dependent on doctor’s evaluation) available over the counter and there will be no more debate. Planned Parenthood can offer deep discounts for those who say they cannot afford said protection.

    Or better yet, put a pack of condoms and a box of Pills in cereal boxes. Unfortunately, that would not ensure the condoms and/or Pills would be used. Based on Guttmacher Institute data, said condoms and/or Pills are currently not being used as they should. (one million abortions/yr and 19 million cases of STDs/yr because either the daily Pill was not taken or a condom stayed in the pocket.)

    Maybe selling Pill-enriched sodas??? Hmmm?

    Condom-fitted briefs for men?? Hmmm?

  • Larry

    “The government is trying to make the nuns do what they don’t want to do. ”

    No they aren’t.

    You didn’t read the article.

    If you did you would have seen the part where the nuns get to OPT OUT ON PROVIDING THE HEALTHCARE SO EMPLOYEES TO OBTAIN CONTRACEPTION BY THEMSELVES.

    Come back when you get an understanding of the facts.

  • Larry

    Yep. One of many which Life Action has done over the years. They specialize in hit pieces for generating phony outrage against PP. This is one of many. As already reported by all non-wingnut news services.

    Conservatives stink at manufacturing outrage in general. Too much reliance on misrepresenting facts, ignoring evidence already reported and they engage in too much petty hysterics.

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