Obama Admin Renews Attempt to Force Little Sisters of the Poor to Obey HHS Mandate

National   Steven Ertelt   Sep 9, 2014   |   10:32AM    Washington, DC

The Obama administration has renewed its attempt to force a Catholic religious order, the Little Sisters of the Poor, to comply with the HHS abortion mandate. The mandate compels religious groups to pay for birth control and drugs that may cause abortions.

The Obama administration announced today it will continue its legal battle against the Little Sisters of the Poor, a religious order of nuns dedicated to serving the neediest elderly in society. This comes despite the fact that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby and another company in their bid to stop the HHS mandate.

littlesisters2The government is still trying to force the nuns to either violate their deeply held religious convictions or pay crippling fines to the IRS.

“Religious ministries in these cases serve tens of thousands of Americans, helping the poor and homeless and healing the sick. The Little Sisters of the Poor alone serve more than ten thousand of the elderly poor. These charities want to continue following their faith. They want to focus on ministry—such as sharing their faith and serving the poor—without worrying about the threat of massive IRS penalties,” said Adele Keim, Counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents the Little Sisters.

Keim told LifeNews: “The government has already exempted millions of Americans from this requirement for commercial or secular reasons, so it should certainly protect the Little Sisters for religious reasons.”

Keim said today’s developments at a federal appeals court in Denver are the latest stage in the government’s attempt to force the Little Sisters and other charities serving the needy to comply with the HHS Mandate. Although the Supreme Court previously required the Little Sisters to do nothing more than notify the government of their religious objection, the government issued new regulations last month in an attempt to circumvent the Supreme Court’s order.

The pro-life attorney explained to LifeNews that today’s action confirms the Obama administration is continuing its fight to use the Little Sisters’ health plan–provided by Christian Brothers Services–to provide potentially life-terminating drugs and devices in violation of their religious beliefs. The new regulations provide that the nuns’ approval can be written on a different form, and be routed through the government to Christian Brothers and any other plan administrators.

“Merely offering the Little Sisters a different way to violate their religion does not ease their conscience,” said Keim. “Adding another layer of paperwork is a solution that only a bureaucrat could love. The federal government has many ways to deliver contraceptives. There’s no reason it should force nuns to do that for them; the First Amendment and Religious Freedom Restoration Act offer two very good reasons why it shouldn’t.”

The Little Sisters’ brief concerning the new rule will be filed later this evening. To date, approximately 90% of the courts addressing the contraception mandate—including the Supreme Court in three separate lawsuits—have protected religious ministries.

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The Little Sisters of the Poor are an international Roman Catholic Congregation of women Religious founded in 1839 by St. Jeanne Jugan.  They operate homes in 31 countries, where they provide loving care for over 13,000 needy elderly persons.  Thirty of these homes are located in the United States.

“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,” explained 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 will face IRS fines unless they violate their religion by hiring an insurer to provide their employees with contraceptives, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs.

“The Sisters should obviously be exempted as ‘religious employers,’ but the government has refused to expand its definition,” said Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and lead counsel for the Little Sisters.   “These women just want to take care of the elderly poor without being forced to violate the faith that animates their work.  The money they collect should be used to care for the poor like it always has—and not to pay the IRS.”