Religious freedom-loving Americans can celebrate today's crucial win at the U.S. Supreme Court. The decision unanimously protected the Little Sisters of the Poor from intrusive government fines for not providing contraception to their employees. What had been hoped and prayed for while this case was pending is exactly what the court has now recognized: that the government has no need to force the Little Sisters to provide contractive services when they are already widely available to anyone who wants them!
Opponents insisted that the Little Sisters as well as other religious groups, schools, hospitals, etc. must provide contraceptives in their health care plan. The court found that there are plenty of other ways of getting them without forcing employers to go against their religiously held convictions to provide them. The government's goal of making contraceptives available to anyone, any time, is already met without involving the Little Sisters.
“All we have ever wanted to do is serve the neediest among us as if they were Christ himself,” said Sister Loraine Marie Maguire, Mother Provincial for the Little Sisters of the Poor. “We look forward to serving the elderly poor for another 175 years to come.”
“This is a game-changer,” said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. “The Court has accepted the government’s concession that it can get drugs to people without using the Little Sisters. The Court has eliminated all of the bad decisions from the lower courts. And the Court has forbidden the government from fining the Little Sisters even though they are refusing to bow to the government’s will. It is only a matter of time before the lower courts make this victory permanent.”
Organizations, prayer groups, churches, families, and individuals have been praying for a positive outcome in this crucial religious freedom case.
The Supreme Court made an unprecedented move in March in asking both sides to provide additional arguments about whether the government could find ways to distribute contraceptives without the involvement of religious non-profits and their health plans. The religious non-profits responded strongly, “Yes.”
The government already exempts one in three Americans from the HHS mandate, as well as large corporations such as Exxon and Visa, and even the government’s own military family plan.
The Little Sisters’ win was also a win for other Becket religious freedom clients, including Christian Brothers Services, Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust, Houston Baptist, East Texas Baptist Universities, Reaching Souls International, Truett-McConnell College, and GuideStone Financial Services of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Other parties in the Little Sisters case include Geneva College, Southern Nazarene University, the Catholic Archbishop of Washington, and the Most Reverend David A. Zubik (Archbishop of Pittsburgh). All of these clients also had the adverse decisions in their cases vacated and sent back to the lower courts.
The Little Sisters of the Poor are represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, Locke Lord LLP, and Professor Kevin Walsh of the University of Richmond Law School. " Justices unanimously ordered the government not to impose these fines and indicated that the government doesn’t need any notice to figure out what should now be obvious—the Little Sisters respectfully object. There is still work to be done, but today’s decision indicates that we will ultimately prevail in court,” said Mari Rienzi of the Becket Fund, a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions.
Of course there are, and will continue to be more attacks on our right to religious freedom, but today's case is an important victory for those who strongly object to violating their conscience in order to comply with the law, as well as those who object to contraceptives.