Political Editors / Apr. 18, 2016

Gov't Admits Violating Little Sisters' Religious Freedom

The nuns scored a significant point before the Supreme Court.

The Little Sisters of the Poor scored a significant point before the Supreme Court when the Obama administration essentially admitted that it could have respected the nuns’ religious liberty and not required the group to buy an insurance plan that also funded contraception. It took the government long enough. As Heritage Foundation’s Sarah Torre notes, the plight of the Little Sisters — which has the potential to give the government the ability to decide just how someone can practice their faith — has cost the group five years of legal battles in the face of a state that will not relent. But after the two sides made oral arguments, the justices made a request that they haven’t made since 1953: They asked the two sides to propose compromises.

In the brief it submitted in April, the government beat around the bush and finally admitted that yes, it probably violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) by threatening millions of dollars in fines if Little Sisters didn’t cave into Big Brother’s demands. The Supreme Court is probably looking for a solution to the case to avoid a 4-4 decision, according to Stanford University law professor Michael McConnell. The professor writes that an initial compromise could have been very simple: Allow Little Sisters and any other organization who hold religious objections to contraception coverage to purchase contraception-free plans. If one of their employees wants that feature with their health care coverage, they shop on the ObamaCare exchange.

The government’s arguments before the highest court in the land don’t look good — especially because it was Little Sisters who the government pressured. As another petitioner in this case pointed out, large companies like Chevron, Exxon, Pepsi and Visa received exemptions from the government to exempt abortifacients from their health care coverage. Why not a group of nuns?

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