Of the dozens of lawsuits against Obamacare’s requirement that employers pay for abortifacients, probably no other exemplifies the Obama administration’s dedication to abortion at the expense of religious beliefs than the case against the Little Sisters of the Poor.
The order of nuns, founded in the early 1800s, is dedicated to helping the poorest of the seniors and to acting in Christ’s stead whenever they can.
Members are not making public statements on their legal case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court – they leave that to their attorneys. But they have prepared a video that communicates their priorities: Christ and their patients.
Sister Mary Bernard explains: “We’re here to live for Him, and for Him and the elderly. That’s our life.”
The nun said that when “people you care for look up at you, they want to see Christ’s face. ”
“When you look down at them, you have to find Christ’s face. The elderly are at risk. They are on their own, no one to speak for them, no one to stand up and express to the world, show the world that these people are still valuable, they’re God’s creation,” she said.
Their beliefs, however, have struck no chord with the Obama administration, which has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to let an injunction issued by Justice Sonya Sotomayor expire. If the administration gets its way, the Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged in Denver and the Little Sisters of the Poor in Baltimore would be forced either to violate their faith or to pay an estimated $4.5 million a year in fines to the Internal Revenue Service.
There is no alternative that would enable the nuns to remain true to their faith, legal arguments in the case make clear.
The administration “continue to insist that their minimalist characterization of the form must control the Little Sisters’ religious determination about whether they can execute the form, even though six of the seven church plan cases have now entered injunctions protecting those plaintiffs from having to fill out the forms in violation of plaintiffs’ religious faith,” a Supreme Court filing on behalf of the nuns explains.
The brief by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing the nuns, says the administration is “simply blind to the religious exercise at issue: the Little Sisters and other applicants cannot execute the form because they cannot deputize a third party to sin on their behalf.”
The administration’s “casual dismissal of that religiously forbidden act as a mere ‘stroke of their own pen’ … perpetuates their claim below that the Little Sisters are fighting an ‘invisible dragon.'”
“But minimizing someone’s religious beliefs does not make them disappear,” the brief states.
The government, which is asking the Supreme Court to let Sotomayor’s injunction expire, contends that a simple solution would be to sign a permission slip that would allow others to deal with the abortifacients.
The lawyers for the Catholic order responded.
“The only solution that makes no sense is the one the government seeks – letting the injunction expire and exacting from the Little Sisters huge fines as the price of continuing to exercise their religion. That outcome would be wrong even if the government claimed its form mattered. But here – where the government openly admits that executing the form is, from the government’s perspective, meaningless paperwork – that outcome is indefensible.”
An attorney for Becket, Adele Keim, told WND in an interview that the members of the order are not giving media interviews.
Keim told WND that the Sisters don’t qualify for an automatic “religious exemption” under Obamacare’s relatively restrictive definitions, so they must apply for it.
But in applying for it, the form, which is defined as “an instrument under which this health plan is operated,” technically would give permission for abortifacient distribution by a third party.
Their current health care plan disallows any such drugs or treatments.
But Obama is making it mandatory for Americans to support abortifacients and related services or pay massive financial penalties to the IRS.
“This is the government coercing the Little Sisters to sign a permission slip for abortion-causing drugs and contraceptives,” Keim told WND.
Founded in 1839 by St. Jeanne Jugan, the order runs homes in 31 countries. The members standing before the court are part of a centuries-old faith tradition in which they “seek to obey God with their whole lives,” Keim said.
“The way I look at it, it’s the government trying to bully an order of nuns into signing a permission slip for drugs and devices,” Keim said. “They cannot through their health plan be used as a vehicle or conduit [for that].”
The case is baffling, because the government has many other ways to hand out contraceptives, if that was the objective, she noted.
She said the Obama administration already pays $300 million a year for such services, aside from the Obamacare mandates.
“This is not about access … this is not about whether they’re legal. … This is about whether an order of nuns who have dedicated their lives to following God must be forced to participate [in distributing abortifacients].”
The Becket organization argued: “Respondents nowhere dispute that applicants face ruinous fines for their religious refusal to sign the forms. Nor do they offer this court even a rational basis (much less a compelling one) for putting the Little Sisters and other Christian Brothers plan members to this choice.”
The document continued: “Respondents’ only answer on irreparable harm is to tell the Little Sisters that they should just go ahead and do what their religion forbids: sign the forms. The government’s repetition of that false solution does nothing to extinguish the irreparable harm applicants face if the injunction is lifted.”
The effect of the Obamacare rules is to force the Sisters to do “the very thing which they religiously oppose and become morally complicit in sin” or pay fines estimated at $4.5 million a year.
The Becket Fund explains that its case on behalf of the Sisters seeks simply to protect organizations that provide health benefits consisted with their religious faith.
Becket, which also represents Belmont Abbey College, Colorado Christian University, East Texas Baptist University, Houston Baptist University, Ave Maria University, Wheaton College and Hobby Lobby in similar disputes, notes the nuns serve more than 13,000 elderly poor people.
“In accordance with their faith, they uphold the unique, inviolable dignity of all human life, especially those deemed weak or, to some, ‘worthless’ in society. The federal government’s contraception and abortion mandate, however, forces the Little Sisters to provide services that destroy human life, contradicting their very mission to respect it.
“Although the government does allow exemptions for church and church-type entities from the HHS Mandate for religious reasons, this accommodation does nothing for the Little Sisters. Because the government refuses to classify them as a ‘religious employer,’ the Little Sisters are required to hire a third party to provide these objectionable services to their employees, and thus are still forced to participate in the government’s scheme. Believing that every human person has God-given worth, the Little Sisters cannot provide contraceptive, abortion, and sterilization services that go against their religious beliefs,” Becket explains.
The form that the government is demanding from the nuns, according to an earlier case, is a self-certification that “will be treated as a designation of the third party administrator(s) as plan administrator and claims administrator for contraceptive benefits.”
The federal government’s own rules demand that all third party administrators “shall provide or arrange payments for contraceptive services.”
“By requiring applicants to sign and utilize these certification forms, applicants are forced to initiate and facilitate the very thing which they religiously oppose and become morally complicit in sin.”
The Supreme Court is expected to rule soon on the injunction for the nuns, even as it prepares to hear oral arguments in several other cases that raise the same issue.