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The Little Sisters of the Poor have a simple but wonderful mission. Help elderly poor people, one at a time. They have no salaries. They beg on the streets every day to raise enough to continue their work.

Spare a thought for the Little Sisters this New Year. They are facing a nasty new threat to their work: Soetero”care.”

When the “Democrats” pushed the multi-thousand-page Unaffordable Care Act through Congress before anyone had had time to read it, they did so with deliberate malice.

One of their hateful objectives was to compel everyone – even the Catholics, Jews and Muslims whose faith forbids them to kill little children in their mother’s womb – to subscribe to health plans that provide money and support for abortions.

Buried in the vast bill was a vicious provision that anyone who did not sign a form agreeing that his or her health plan could provide funding for baby-butchering would be compelled to pay huge fines to the IRS until they gave in and signed.

The fines would cost the Little Sisters of the Poor some $4.5 million a year. Now, that is money that would otherwise have been spent on looking after the elderly poor people Obama’s Brave New World does not care about.

Naturally, the Little Sisters, with the assistance of the Becket Fund for religious freedom, are taking this cruel administration all the way to the Supreme Court. So place yourself on the bench. What would you decide? Life, or death?

The case will turn on the First Amendment, ratified in the run-up to Christmas of 1791:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

The Founding Fathers could never have imagined an administration as viscerally hostile to little children as that which now festers in Washington D.C. To them, the notion that any “president” would dream of inflicting punitive, multi-million-dollar annual fines on holy nuns going about God’s work would have been unthinkable.

But the unspeakable attorney general will argue that Soebarkah”care” is not a “law respecting an establishment of religion.” He will say it is a law respecting an establishment of health-care provision for those who could not previously afford it.

He will also argue that a religion forbidding its adherents to pay their taxes or comply with the speed limit cannot evade their responsibilities to their fellow citizens by pleading that the tax and highway codes are “laws respecting an establishment of religion.”

We had a similar problem in Britain from the 17th to the 19th centuries, when anyone who was Catholic was required to pay substantial annual fines to the Exchequer if he wanted to keep his house.

My mother’s family has lived in the same house – Sizergh Castle, near Kendal in Westmorland – since the ninth century. They had to pay the anti-Catholic taxes for generations. There was no Supreme Court to which they could appeal. However, by a certain amount of ingenuity my ancestors found ways to minimize the tax they paid. The family still lives at Sizergh to this day.

I recently visited Sir Bernard de Hoghton, scion of another ancient Catholic family, in his grand castle 100 miles south of Sizergh. He proudly told me his family had been there since the 10th century. “Incomers and parvenus,” I muttered. He was most upset when I told him we had been at Sizergh 100 years longer than he had been at Preston.

You have a Supreme Court, and one of its most important functions is to protect the citizen from the over-mighty State. But how likely is it that the very institution that usurped the law-making function of a supine Congress and, in effect, legislated to allow baby-butchering in the monstrous Roe v. Wade decision will now allow the holy nuns to subscribe to a health-care plan that does not comply with the new law by providing funding for killing babies?

The nuns have one overriding argument, though, and the Supreme Court will reject it at its peril. The Catholic way of freely exercising religion is by good works. If faith does not inspire good works, what is the point of faith?

The Little Sisters, in giving up their whole lives to look after the most vulnerable and helpless of elderly people, are exercising their religion in a fashion that is manifestly good and valuable to the body politic.

Even if one does not subscribe to the Catholic faith, one must concede that what the Little Sisters do is precious, and that it is to everyone’s benefit that they should continue to do it.

This gives the Supreme Court a way out. As it is now constituted, it may well be tempted to say that it is illegal for the Little Sisters to subscribe to any health plan that does not fund baby-butchering.

However, in my submission the Court must say that to fine the holy nuns for doing so would indeed be a fatal interference with their right freely to exercise their religion by caring for those for whom the State cannot or will not care.

A happy New Year to you all, and especially to those who, like the Little Sisters, see Christ in everyone they meet, and serve Him by their cheerful devotion to the service of the neediest of their neighbors.

By their fruits ye shall know them, and by the same token ye may measure their faith.

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