The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed a lawsuit on September 24 against Kathleen Sebelius and the Obama administration on behalf of the Little Sisters of the Poor, an international Roman Catholic order of Sisters dedicated to caring for the elderly poor. The Sisters joined Christian Brothers Services and Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust in the first class action lawsuit against the HHS mandate.
A press release from the Becket Fund states that, without relief, the Little Sisters face millions of dollars in IRS fines because they cannot comply with the government’s mandate that they provide their employees with free access to contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs.
“Like all of the Little Sisters, I have vowed to God and the Roman Catholic Church that I will treat all life as valuable, and I have dedicated my life to that work,” said Sister Loraine Marie, Superior for one of the three U.S. provinces in the Congregation. “We cannot violate our vows by participating in the government’s program to provide access to abortion-inducing drugs.”
The Little Sisters’ ministry of caring for the elderly poor does not fall within the Obama administration’s narrow exemption for “religious employers.” On January 1, 2014, the Sisters will face IRS fines unless they violate their faith by hiring an insurer to provide their employees with contraceptives and abortifacients.
“These women just want to take care of the elderly poor without being forced to violate the faith that animates their work,” said Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. “The money they collect should be used to care for the poor like it always has – and not to pay the IRS.”
The class-action suit will represent hundreds of Catholic non-profit ministries with similar beliefs and is the first on behalf of benefits providers who cannot comply with the HHS mandate.
In total, there are now 73 lawsuits challenging the mandate.