Little Sisters of Religious Liberty
For the second time, SCOTUS heard an ObamaCare contraception-mandate case.
Religious liberty is more than just being able to worship according to your own traditions and spiritual practices. Religious liberty is at the core of our American founding and the unalienable rights that can neither be awarded nor stripped away by our government.
When the Little Sisters of the Poor returned to the U.S. Supreme Court last week for a second time to defend their religious freedom, they represented far more than just whether women could get free birth control.
First, who are these women and what do they do?
The Little Sisters of the Poor are an institute of Catholic women whose calling and devotion are to a very clear mission: “to offer the neediest elderly of every race and religion a home where they will be welcomed as Christ, cared for as family and accompanied with dignity until God calls them to himself.” These celibate ladies spend their lives serving to meet the needs of those who are abandoned, alone, and dying. They do so by living a consecrated life — to have one heart, one soul, and one will with Jesus Christ.
Their website speaks of their “vows of chastity, poverty and obedience” as they “offer God our heart and affections, our personal talents and gifts, our possessions and our will — all that we are and have — for his glory and the salvation of souls.” The Sisters take a fourth vow of hospitality that places their “religious consecration into the concrete realities of everyday life. It gives a spiritual value to the many activities of our day and enables us to communicate God’s compassion and merciful love to the elderly.”
The reason they were back before the Supreme Court last week was to defend a religious exemption to the mandate included in the Affordable Care Act — a.k.a. ObamaCare — that required free contraception prescription medicines be included in preventative care. This preventative care also included treatment of sexually transmitted diseases and reproductive health counseling with adolescents, not just access to contraceptives, which are not supported by the Catholic faith.
In 2018, the Trump administration expanded the existing exemption for churches and religiously affiliated nonprofits to include a broader exclusion for any who expressed “sincerely held moral conviction.” The states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey went to court and argued that any exemptions of ACA on religious grounds or even the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) were not permitted.
But back to the assault on religious liberty. For thousands of years, the tenets of the Catholic faith have endured the changes of culture and honored the blessing of life through childbearing. While Protestant denominations largely have embraced preventative birth control, they too oppose abortifacients (those agents that medically induce an abortion) and counseling that encourages the same.
Yet the Obama administration mandated that individuals carry health insurance covering medicines, counseling for procedures, and treatments that are religiously and morally objectionable. The state, these leftists claim, should be able to confer rights that supersede the unalienable rights possessed by individuals endowed by our Creator.
Plainly, the states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey are arguing that these women who’ve banded together in vows of chastity, poverty, obedience, and hospitality and are serving as an organization must be forced to abandon their beliefs to adopt a cultural norm and offer a government-sanctioned right via a health-insurance plan.
Of particular interest in the states’ arguments was the fact that no evidence or citation was provided of persons or individuals who have lost access to contraception or health services in light of the widespread availability of birth-control methods and services outside the contracted services of an insurance policy. Facts like those are irrelevant to the militant Left.
The High Court’s ruling is expected this summer. In the meantime, the Little Sisters of the Poor will continue in their critical role caring for dying elderly in the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic, honoring their calling and defending the rights of conscience and religious liberty. Americans who love Liberty and our unalienable rights should be cheering them on!