Supreme Court Prevents Obama From Forcing Catholic Nuns to Obey HHS Mandate

National   Steven Ertelt   Jan 25, 2014   |   9:09AM    Washington, DC

In a second ruling this month, the Supreme Court issued an order stopping the Obama administration from forcing a group of Catholic nuns to obey the HHS mandate that compels them to pay for abortion-causing drugs and birth control.

The group Little Sisters of the Poor received a temporary injunction earlier this month from the Supreme Court protecting them from the controversial HHS contraceptive mandate.  The injunction means that the Little Sisters will not be forced to sign and deliver forms tonight authorizing and directing others to provide contraceptives, sterilizations and drugs and devices that cause abortions.

On Friday, the high court the justices concluded that the nuns — and roughly 200 religious nonprofits — do not need to file government forms to exempt themselves from the law’s mandate that workers receive free contraception as part of employee health insurance plans.

pichealth18bThe order is meant to stand until a lower court rules on a pending appeal in the legal fight between the Little Sisters and the Health Department, the court said, making clear that it was not weighing in on the overall merits of the dispute.

Still, the pro-life Beckett Fund, which is representing the Catholic order, hailed the Supreme Court’s decision protecting them from the controversial HHS mandate while their case is before the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. It said the injunction means that the Little Sisters will not be forced to sign and deliver the controversial government forms authorizing and instructing their benefits administrator to provide contraceptives, sterilization, and drugs and devices that may cause early abortions. The Court’s order also provides protection to more than 400 other Catholic organizations that receive health benefits through the same Catholic benefits provider, Christian Brothers.
“We are delighted that the Supreme Court has issued this order protecting the Little Sisters,” said Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel for the Becket Fund.  “The government has lots of ways to deliver contraceptives to people–it doesn’t need to force nuns to participate.”To receive protection, the Supreme Court said that the Little Sisters and other organizations that receive benefits through Christian Brothers must simply inform HHS of their religious identity and objections. The Court said that the Little Sisters did not have to sign or deliver the controversial government forms that authorize and direct their benefits administrator to provide the objectionable drugs and devices.

Prior to the order, injunctions had been awarded in 18 of the 19 similar cases in which relief had been requested.

“Virtually every other party who asked for protection from the mandate has been given it,” said Rienzi.  “It made no sense for the Little Sisters to be singled out for fines and punishment before they could even finish their suit.”

The Little Sisters are joined in the lawsuit by religious health benefit providers, Christian Brothers Services, Christian Brothers Employee Benefits Trust.  The lawsuit is a class action on behalf of all the non-exempt organizations that receive benefits through Christian Brothers. The Plaintiffs are also represented by Locke Lord, a national law firm, and by Kevin Walsh, a law professor at the University of Richmond.

Recently, in a huge victory for Priests for Life, a pro-life organization, a federal appeals court issued a ruling saying it doesn’t have to pay massive fines to the federal government for not obeying the HHS mandate, which forces religious groups and companies to pay for birth control or abortion-causing drugs for their employees.

To date, there are currently 91 lawsuits challenging the unconstitutional HHS mandate.