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No decision from Supreme Court yet on the right of the Little Sisters of the Poor not to be compelled to pay for health coverage for products and procedures they find “morally unacceptable”

by | Jul 2, 2020

By Dave Andrusko

“Of particular concern to Amici is the need for this Court to reaffirm the scope and role of RFRA [Religious Freedom Restoration Act], which Congress enacted ‘to provide very broad protection for religious liberty’” —From a friend of the court (amicus] brief filed by 92 Members of the House and Senate 

It could’ve been today, but it wasn’t. The Supreme Court is packing into the last few days of the current session decisions on a number of vitally important cases so it’s anyone’s guess which day the ruling will come down.

The High Court stumbled badly in June Medical Services, L.L.C. v. Russo. Five justices gutted Louisiana’s 2014 law which did no more than require abortionists to hold admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic where they end the lives of unborn children. We can hope the High Court does better on the crucial issue of religious freedom which pro-abortionists hate because it interferes with the smooth assembly-line slaughter of preborn babies.

Is it not obvious that freedom of conscience and the freedom to practice one’s faith are cornerstones of the American experience? Not to the abortion industry. To the Planned Parenthoods, they are tiresome “religious” barriers to commandeering each and every one of us, directly or indirectly, as they seek to weave abortion into every thread of American life.

At first glance, you might think the Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, and New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal would be embarrassed about going after the Little Sisters of the Poor. But you would be wrong.

When oral arguments were presented May 6th in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Supreme Court heard a vigorous debate over whether these Catholic nuns, and others with religious and moral objections, are bound by a mandate, issued by HHS under a provision of ObamaCare. The mandate would force them to provide health insurance coverage for products and procedures they find “‘morally unacceptable.”

The Order, which serves the poor and the elderly, has fought the mandate for seven+ years and seemingly had finally prevailed when HHS announced a new rule to protect religious non-profits, including the Little Sisters of the Poor. That proved too much for several states, including Pennsylvania and California and New Jersey, who hustled off to court.

At issue before the Justices, who conducted oral arguments by teleconference, is the nationwide injunction issued by the 3rd Circuit blocking the HHS rule. The Trump administration asked the High Court to reverse the injunction.

The issues at stake cannot be more fundamental. As the Congressional brief argued

The Third Circuit’s decision below is a direct assault on RFRA [Religious Freedom Restoration Act] and imposes a drastic and unprecedented restriction on federal agencies’ ability to protect religious liberty. It must be reviewed and reversed.

The one-two punch delivered by the Third Circuit both permits an agency to implement regulations that burden religious exercise, and also restricts the Executive from providing sufficient religious accommodations to temper that burden. That pair of rulings runs roughshod over RFRA’s requirement that all laws—including all regulations promulgated to “implement[]” statutory law—be interpreted and construed to provide the greatest possible protection to freedom of conscience and religious exercise.

Their conclusion starkly summarizes the issues at stake:

In passing RFRA and acknowledging the weightiness of claims of conscience by parties like the Little Sisters, Congress recognized this type of harm for what it is: an impediment to the free exercise of  religion, which can be justified only if it furthers a compelling government interest in the least restrictive means. The nationwide injunction against 20 the religious exemption—upheld by the Third Circuit—inflicts such a harm on the Little Sisters.

Categories: Supreme Court