The following comes from a January 6 Catholic News Agency article by Matt Hadro:
Religious sisters should not be forced to choose between caring for the poor and obeying their conscience, the Little Sisters of the Poor told the Supreme Court in a recent legal brief, adding that this is what the government is demanding of them through the HHS mandate.
“We perform this loving ministry because of our faith,” said Sister Loraine Marie Maguire, mother provincial of the Little Sisters of the Poor, adding that the Little Sisters “cannot possibly choose between our care for the elderly poor and our faith, and we shouldn’t have to.”
Sister Maguire’s comments came January 4, as the Little Sisters filed their Supreme Court brief against the federal contraception mandate.
The case will be heard this Supreme Court term as part of a bundle of cases against the administration’s contraceptive mandate. Representing the Little Sisters and several other plaintiffs in the case is the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which filed the brief before the court on Monday.
At issue is a mandate from the Department of Health and Human Services requiring employers to offer health plans covering free contraception, sterilization and some drugs that can cause early abortions.
The federal law in question, the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, provides that when a government action violates a person’s sincerely-held religious beliefs, the burden of proof is on the government to establish that the action furthers a compelling state interest and is the least-restrictive means of doing so.
Furthermore, though the government may disagree with the person’s religious objections, it may not determine for that person that his conscientious objection is groundless, the brief says.
Additionally, the fact that the administration exempted some employers from the mandate for other reasons undermines their claim that contraception coverage is a compelling interest, since they are not requiring all employers to provide it, the brief claims.
Furthermore, houses of worship – even those that do not object to the mandate – are exempt from it, meaning that a church could refuse to provide contraception coverage simply out of convenience and not face a penalty.
“All we ask is that our rights not be taken away,” Sister Maguire said. “The government exempts large corporations, small businesses, and other religious ministries from what they are imposing on us – we just want to keep serving the elderly poor as we have always done for 175 years.”