Leaders of the U.S. bishops’ conference praised the Supreme Court’s defense of the Little Sisters of the Poor against immoral bullying while underscoring deeper problems that remain with the Obama-era Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate.
Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski, chairman of the Bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty, and Kansas City Archbishop Joseph Naumann, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities, issued a joint statement Wednesday praising the Court’s recognition of the religious freedom of the Little Sisters of the Poor against “attempts to force Catholic religious to cooperate with immoral activities.”
The bishops immediately pivoted to the offense, however, slamming the underlying problems present within the HHS mandate itself.
“This is a saga that did not need to occur. Contraception is not health care, and the government should never have mandated that employers provide it in the first place,” the bishops said. “Yet even after it had, there were multiple opportunities for government officials to do the right thing and exempt conscientious objectors.”
“Time after time, administrators and attorneys refused to respect the rights of the Little Sisters of the Poor, and the Catholic faith they exemplify,” they continued, and even after the government expanded religious exemptions to the HHS contraceptive mandate, “Pennsylvania and other states chose to continue this attack on conscience.”
The bishops highlighted the irony of a sustained attack on an organization that is committed to serving the poorest and most vulnerable members of society.
“The Little Sisters of the Poor is an international congregation that is committed to building a culture of life. They care for the elderly poor. They uphold human dignity. They follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and his Church,” the bishops noted.
“The government has no right to force a religious order to cooperate with evil. We welcome the Supreme Court’s decision. We hope it brings a close to this episode of government discrimination against people of faith,” they added.
“Yet, considering the efforts we have seen to force compliance with this mandate, we must continue to be vigilant for religious freedom,” they concluded.
On Wednesday, former Vice President Joe Biden, who identifies as a Catholic, promised to reverse the religious protections guaranteed by the U.S. Supreme Court in recent decisions allowing private companies and religious groups exemption from Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate.
“As disappointing as the Supreme Court’s ruling is, there is a clear path to fixing it: electing a new President who will end Donald Trump’s ceaseless attempts to gut every aspect of the Affordable Care Act,” Biden said.
In point of fact, on taking office, President Donald Trump issued an executive order requiring the HHS to create new rules that would protect religious groups like Little Sisters of the Poor from having to comply with mandates that violated their faith.
The Democrats pushed back, suing to block the Trump administration’s rule, winning a nationwide injunction against it, which forced the nuns back to the Supreme Court.