You may have been thrilled to start off the New Year by reading the breaking news that Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor granted temporary relief for the Catholic charity group, The Little Sisters of the Poor. Without such intervention from the Court, this nonprofit would have been forced to violate its deeply held beliefs and provide contraception, sterilization and abortifacients, or pay steep fines, or close its doors on January 1. The group is not only a nonprofit run by nuns, but one that depends on donations and volunteers.
Justice Sotomayor, who herself was appointed by Obama, gave the government until Friday, January 3 to respond and on that date, the Department of Justice (DOJ) did. Such a response shows that, as has been in the case in the past with so-called ‘compromises,’ the Obama administration still refuses to fully grant religious liberty.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) argued in legal papers filed today that a Roman Catholic group of nuns won’t have to offer contraception and possible abortion-inducing drugs in their employee health plans — but only if they sign a government form that delegates the action to a third party. Refusing to do so could result in steep fines.
This administration, which has been sued in numerous lawsuits from organizations and companies seeking relief from the HHS Mandate does not understand where those who are bringing forth such lawsuits are coming from. Worse, in failing to grasp such motivation in these suits, the administration also fails to understand what religious liberty is all about.
It is not just that The Little Sisters of the Poor and others do not wish to comply for the heck of it. No, such groups and individuals find contraceptives, sterilizations and/or abortifacients to be immoral and sinful. Thus, it will not mean true relief, and it will not work to simply sign away the burden onto a third party while still being in good faith. The CitizenLink piece includes statements from Mark Rienzi, senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a group which has represented some of the nonprofits in their lawsuits against the HHS Mandate. Rienzi calls the government form a “permission slip,” which “merely authorizes the mandate… to a third party.”
While there should be cautious with our optimism, Rienzi also points out that:
“The government is asking the Supreme Court to look the other way while it coerces the Little Sisters,” Rienzi said. “If the administration believed its contraceptive mandate was valid, it would join the Little Sisters’ request for Supreme Court review because the government has lost almost all of the cases in the lower courts. Instead, its brief today is devoted to trying to keep the Court out of the issue, which would leave hundreds of religious organizations subject to massive fines for following their religion.”
While the Obama administration continues to violate religious liberty force its citizens to operate an organization while going against deeply held beliefs if they wish to stay in business, there may be hope that the federal government is running scared because deep down we all know that whether it be the near or distant future, the days of the HHS Mandate are numbered, and we can look forward to a return of true religious liberty.