Pro-abortion leaders in California and Pennsylvania forced a group of charitable nuns back to court this week to defend their religious exemption to the Obamacare HHS mandate.
In 2017, pro-abortion attorneys general in Pennsylvania, California and several other states filed lawsuits to overturn new religious protections issued by the Trump administration. The new rules protect the Little Sisters of the Poor and other religious employers from having to pay for drugs that may cause abortions in their employee health care plans.
The Little Sisters won a victory at the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016, but the new lawsuits pushed them back into court.
On Thursday, the Becket Fund represented the nuns in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and again on Friday at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
The “lawsuits by state Attorneys General Josh Shapiro (PA) and Xavier Becerra (CA) … threaten their ministry of serving the elderly poor,” the legal group said in a statement. “The new rule protects religious non-profits, including the Little Sisters, from providing services such as the week-after pill in their health care plans. Yet California and Pennsylvania are suing to take those rights away, forcing the Little Sisters back to court.”
Shapiro has claimed that the Trump administration rules violate the First and Fifth Amendments because they put employers’ religious rights over women’s and deny women equal protection under the law, Patch reports.
But even Shapiro admitted that the HHS mandate under pro-abortion President Barack Obama was “extremely narrow,” leaving little room for religious exemptions.
Whats more, the Obama administration carved out exemptions for huge corporations like ExxonMobil and PepsiCo but not for religious individuals. Becket lawyers pointed out that the Pennsylvania attorney general did not challenge the exemptions for those big businesses.
The New American commented on this week’s court battle:
It’s clear why the government targets the sisters, given the mischief they’re up to. “In addition to the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, the Little Sisters of the Poor also take a vow of hospitality,” reports CNA. “The order operates nursing homes to care for the elderly poor, and are present in communities around the world.”
So what’s their sin? CNA explains: “The Little Sisters were not eligible for the initial religious exemption from the mandate because they serve and employ those of all faiths.”
Got that? If they’d discriminated in a way leftists detest but which is lawful for religious organizations, and only employed and served other Catholics, they’d be fine. But being open to all puts a target on their backs.
The Trump administration said the new exemptions are motivated by “our desire to bring to a close the more than five years of litigation” over the pro-abortion mandate. These include cases by the Little Sister of the Poor, Hobby Lobby and countless other religious organizations and businesses.
Trump’s order limits a rule created under the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act that required employers, including non-church religious organizations, to cover all forms of contraception at no cost to the employees, including birth control drugs and devices that can cause abortions.
Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at Becket and lead attorney for the Little Sisters, previously told LifeNews: “Sadly Josh Shapiro and Xavier Becerra think attacking nuns is a way to score political points. These men may think their campaign donors want them to sue nuns, but our guess is most taxpayers disagree. No one needs nuns in order to get contraceptives, and no one needs these guys reigniting the last administration’s divisive and unnecessary culture war.”
The controversial HHS mandate has twice made it to the Supreme Court where it sided with both Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters to not be forced to pay for abortion causing drugs in violation of their consciences.
The court ruled that Hobby Lobby and other similar businesses were protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which states that an individual’s religious expression shouldn’t be “substantially burdened” by a law unless there is a “compelling government interest.”
In the Hobby Lobby ruling, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito wrote that the ACA’s contraception rule “would put these merchants to a difficult choice: either give up the right to seek judicial protection of their religious liberty or forgo the benefits, available to their competitors, of operating as corporations.”