Defend the Little Sisters of the Poor -- and American Liberty

Posted: Jul 22, 2015 12:01 AM
Defend the Little Sisters of the Poor -- and American Liberty
No group in the United States today is making a stronger stand for liberty than the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Catholic nuns dedicated to running nursing homes for the elderly poor.

Every friend of freedom should rally to their cause.

The federal government is now seeking to deny these sisters freedom of conscience. It has already taken its case against their liberty all the way through the U.S. Court of Appeal for the 10th Circuit.

If the government succeeds, it means Catholic nuns in this country can no longer freely exercise their Catholic faith. They must be complicit -- at the government's command -- in a plan that will destroy innocent human lives.

The Department of Health and Human Services has offered the sisters a series of choices -- none of which they can accept without violating their sincere, and correct, understanding of Catholic moral teachings.

The first choice the government has offered is: You must provide health insurance to your employees that covers sterilizations, contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs and devices.

The second: You can provide insurance for your employees that does not cover these things. But then, as punishment for practicing your faith, you must pay a penalty equal to $100 per day for every "affected individual" on your plan.

The third: You can turn your back on what you sincerely believe is your moral obligation to provide health-care coverage to your employees and not provide it. But then, in addition to surrendering your conscience to the government, you must pay a fine of $2,000 per employee.

The fourth: You can sign a government form directing the third-party administrator of your self-insured health-care plan to provide your employees directly with coverage for sterilizations, contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs and devices.

And the fifth: You can provide HHS with the information it would need to direct your third-party administrator to provide your employees with coverage for sterilizations, contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs and devices.

The one choice HHS will not give the Little Sisters is the one President Barack Obama repeatedly and mendaciously promised Americans they would have if Congress enacted the Affordable Care Act: "If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan."

The government has argued in court that the Little Sisters should not complain about choices four and five because their self-insurance plan is the Christian Brothers self-insurance plan and a Christian Brothers organization is also the third-party administrator. If the sisters or the government ordered the Christian Brothers to cover sterilizations, contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs and devices for the sisters' employees, the Christian Brothers, like the Little Sisters, would refuse.

But unlike the Little Sisters, whose nonprofit nursing homes are not considered fully exempted "religious employers" by the government, the Christian Brothers are currently exempted.

As the Little Sisters and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have pointed out, however, this does not remove the sisters' moral objection to bowing to a government command that they actively participate in the government's plan -- even if that participation does not ultimately achieve the government's desired result--to distribute sterilizations, contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs and devices to those enrolled in the sisters' health-care plan.

"[T]he Little Sisters have been crystal clear that their beliefs prevent them from taking 'any action that would participate in facilitating access to abortifacients, contraceptives, or sterilization," the sisters' lawyers explained to the appeals court.

"This is necessary not only to prevent complicity in grave sin, but also to avoid even appearing to condone wrongdoing, which would violate the Little Sisters' public witness to the sanctity of human life and could mislead other Catholics and the public," the lawyers told the court. "Such scandal would itself be sinful and would undermine the Little Sisters' ability to carry out their ministry."

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops unambiguously backS the Little Sisters in their stand.

"Significantly, the Little Sisters' religious objection does not turn on whether the third party administrator receiving the form actually follows through and provides the objectionable coverage," the bishops told the court in their own brief. "Appellants object generally to taking any action that 'authorize[s] anyone to arrange or make payments for contraceptives, sterilizations and abortifacients,' -- even if the third party administrator ultimately has the discretion not to provide such payments -- and specifically to '[d]eliver[ing] the self-certification form to another organization that could then rely on it as an authorization to deliver those contraceptives, sterilization, and abortifacients to the Little Sisters' employees now or in the future.

"In short," said the bishops, "Appellants 'cannot participate in the government's scheme without violating their sincere and undisputed religious beliefs."

This month, the majority of a three-judge panel on the appeals court ruled against the sisters. But the Little Sisters of the Poor are not backing down.

Meanwhile, under the government's existing regulatory scheme, almost all Catholic parents in the United States must ultimately get a health-insurance plan that would provide cost-free coverage for sterilizations, contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs and devices to their own daughters.

Do Americans have a God-given right not to participate in government plans and regulations that provide drugs and devices that take innocent life?

Can government force us all to be complicit in the killing?

This is a fight for our own -- and our nation's -- soul.