Lawsuits by the states of California and Pennsylvania against the Trump administration’s new religious liberty rule have sent the Little Sisters of the Poor back into court to defend their right to adhere to their faith beliefs.
The Little Sisters – a religious order of nuns who care for the elderly poor – were recently exempted from having to pay up to $70 million in fines to the federal government under Obamacare’s HHS contraceptive mandate. In October, the Trump administration issued a new rule that allows a greater number of organizations and companies whose owners have religious and moral convictions that conflict with abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization procedures, or artificial birth control, to be exempted from the federal mandate.
The Trump administration’s new rule fulfills the Supreme Court’s ruling in Zubik vs. Burwell last year – which sent the case of the Little Sisters and other faith organizations back to the lower courts, in effect protecting the groups from the onerous fines.
However, shortly after the Trump administration released its new rule, Attorneys General Xavier Becerra of California and Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania filed lawsuits to eliminate the exemption for the Little Sisters. Now, represented by Becket Law, the Sisters are asking the court to protect their religious freedom once again.
“Sadly, Josh Shapiro and Xavier Becerra think attacking nuns is a way to score political points,” said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at Becket and lead attorney for the case of the Little Sisters. “These men may think their campaign donors want them to sue nuns, but our guess is most taxpayers disagree. No one needs nuns in order to get contraceptives, and no one needs these guys reigniting the last administration’s divisive and unnecessary culture war.”
“We just want to continue our religious mission of caring for the elderly poor as we have for over 175 years,” adds Mother Loraine Marie Maguire of the Little Sisters about their return to court as a result of the actions of these states. “We pray that these state governments will leave us alone and let us do our work in peace.”
Left-wing groups, politicians, and the media have advanced the narrative that artificial birth control is “essential” to women’s “health” and “economic advancement.”
Planned Parenthood – which itself benefits from continued government reimbursement for contraceptives – is one of those organizations leading the charge against the Trump administration’s new rule.
— Planned Parenthood (@PPact) October 30, 2017
The abortion industry giant admits in a tweet that it expects women not to pay for their own birth control when they choose to have sex. Planned Parenthood estimates the out-of-pocket cost to women to use birth control is “up to $600/year” – comparable to or even less than the cost of a manicure twice per month.
— Planned Parenthood (@PPFA) November 15, 2017
The Obamacare contraceptive rule sparked dozens of lawsuits by other faith groups as well as the Little Sisters. The new Trump administration rule leaves free contraception in place for the vast majority of women, since it only concerns employers with moral and religious objections.
The contraceptive mandate was inserted into Obamacare by former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius – an abortion activist – and bureaucrats in her department. Following objections by many religious employers to the requirements of the mandate, the Obama administration devised “accommodations” that only gave the appearance that religious groups would not be footing the bill for the federal government’s mandate of the contraceptive drugs and sterilization procedures.
The Obama administration itself, however, actually exempted at least 25 million Americans – through various exemption allowances – from its own rule, including major U.S. cities, the U.S. military, and mega-corporations such as Chevron, Exxon, Visa, and Pepsi Bottling – with little pushback from the left.
In May, President Trump invited the Little Sisters on stage with him at his first National Day of Prayer event at the White House and said to them, “I want you to know that your long ordeal will soon be over.”
“We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied, or silenced anymore,” the president said. “We will never ever stand for religious discrimination.”
“No American should be forced to choose between the dictates of the federal government and the tenets of their faith,” Trump added.