A Catholic religious order, the Little Sisters of the Poor, launched their full appeal before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals today , asking the court to protect their religious freedom from the HHS mandate. The mandate compels religious groups to pay for birth control and drugs that may cause abortions.
Without relief, the Little Sisters face millions of dollars in IRS fines because they cannot comply with the government’s mandate that they give their employees free access to contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs.
Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily protected the Little Sisters from the mandate. The Little Sisters are now before the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver to extend that protection, and will file their opening brief later today.
“We are thrilled the Supreme Court temporarily protected the Little Sisters from having to violate their conscience or pay crippling IRS fines. We are hopeful the Tenth Circuit will give them more lasting protection,” said Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and lead counsel for Little Sisters of the Poor. “The federal government is a massive entity that has lots of ways to deliver contraceptives to people–it doesn’t need to force the Little Sisters to participate.”
The injunction from the Supreme Court provided the Little Sisters short-term protection from being forced to sign and deliver the controversial government forms authorizing, ordering, and incentivizing their health benefits administrator to provide contraceptives, sterilization, and drugs and devices that may cause early abortions. Instead, the Little Sisters simply had to inform HHS of their religious identity and objections.
Protection has been given to 18 of the 19 similar cases.
“Virtually every other party who asked for protection from the mandate has been given it,” said Rienzi.
To date, there are currently 91 lawsuits challenging the unconstitutional HHS mandate.
Previously, U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take up Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., a landmark case addressing the Constitutionally guaranteed rights of business owners to operate their family companies without violating their deeply held religious convictions. The Obama administration says it is confident it will prevail, saying, “We believe this requirement is lawful…and are confident the Supreme Court will agree.”
Hobby Lobby could pay as much as $1.3 million each day in fines for refusing to pay for birth control or abortion-causing drugs under the mandate.
The Supreme Court is also taking the case of the Mennonite cabinet makers forced to pay for birth control and abortion-causing drugs.
A December 2013 Rasmussen Reports poll shows Americans disagree with forcing companies like Hobby Lobby to obey the mandate.
“Half of voters now oppose a government requirement that employers provide health insurance with free contraceptives for their female employees,” Rasmussen reports.
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The poll found: “The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 38% of Likely U.S. Voters still believe businesses should be required by law to provide health insurance that covers all government-approved contraceptives for women without co-payments or other charges to the patient.
Fifty-one percent (51%) disagree and say employers should not be required to provide health insurance with this type of coverage. Eleven percent (11%) are not sure.”
Another recent poll found 59 percent of Americans disagree with the mandate.