Federal Appeals Court Rules Against Little Sisters of the Poor

Leah Barkoukis
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Posted: Jul 14, 2015 3:45 PM
Federal Appeals Court Rules Against Little Sisters of the Poor

First, I urge you to watch this short video about the Little Sisters of the Poor. Then, try to wrap your mind around the fact that today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled that the religious order must comply with Obamacare’s abortion mandate, forcing the group to pay for birth control and other drugs that may cause abortions.

More from The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty:

The Tenth Circuit heard oral argument in this case in December of last year, when for the first time since the case began, Sr. Loraine Marie Maguire, Mother Provincial of the Little Sisters of the Poor, delivered a public statement on the case (see statement here).

Today the Tenth Circuit ruled that government can force the Little Sisters to either violate their faith or pay massive IRS penalties. The court held that participating in the government’s contraception delivery scheme is “as easy as obtaining a parade permit, filing a simple tax form, or registering to vote” and that although the Sisters sincerely believe that participating in the scheme “make[s] them complicit in the overall delivery scheme," the court "ultimately rejects the merits of this claim" because the court believes the scheme "relieves [the Little Sisters] from complicity."

“As Little Sisters of the Poor, we simply cannot choose between our care for the elderly poor and our faith. And we should not have to make that choice, because it violates our nation’s commitment to ensuring that people from diverse faiths can freely follow God’s calling in their lives.” Maguire said in a statement. “For over 175 years, we have served the neediest in society with love and dignity. All we ask is to be able to continue our religious vocation free from government intrusion.”

The Little Sisters of the Poor received a temporary injunction from the Supreme Court last year, which protected them from the mandate. In an effort to extend that protection the group then went before the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, which ended up ruling against them. Today that ruling has been upheld.

“We’re disappointed with today’s decision,” Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and lead attorney for the Little Sisters of the Poor, said in a statement. “After losing repeatedly at the Supreme Court, the government continues its unrelenting pursuit of the Little Sisters of the Poor. It is a national embarrassment that the world’s most powerful government insists that, instead of providing contraceptives through its own existing exchanges and programs, it must crush the Little Sisters’ faith and force them to participate. Untold millions of people have managed to get contraceptives without involving nuns, and there is no reason the government cannot run its programs without hijacking the Little Sisters and their health plan. “

The fight for religious liberty is not over yet, however.

“We will keep on fighting for the Little Sisters, even if that means having to go all the way to the Supreme Court,” said Daniel Blomberg, Counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

According to a recent poll, a majority of Americans (53 percent) oppose Obamacare’s HHS mandate.