The following comes from a recent Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty press release:
The Little Sisters of the Poor arrived in America in 1868. Currently, there are thirty homes in the United States where the elderly and dying are treated as if they were Jesus himself and cared for with love and dignity until God calls them home. The Little Sisters serve more than 13,000 elderly poor people in thirty-one countries around the world.
The Little Sisters adhere to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. In accordance with their faith, they uphold the unique, inviolable dignity of all human life, especially those deemed weak or, to some, “worthless” in society. The federal government’s contraception and abortion mandate, however, forces the Little Sisters to provide services that destroy human life, contradicting their very mission to respect it.
Although the government does allow exemptions for church and church-type entities from the HHS Mandate for religious reasons, this accommodation does nothing for the Little Sisters. Because the government refuses to classify them as a “religious employer,” the Little Sisters are required to hire a third party to provide these objectionable services to their employees, and thus are still forced to participate in the government’s scheme. Believing that every human person has God-given worth, the Little Sisters cannot provide contraceptive, abortion, and sterilization services that go against their religious beliefs.
The Becket Fund filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Little Sisters of the Poor, seeking to uphold their right to carry out their vows of obedience in their service to the poor. The suit is a class action lawsuit, and the lead plaintiffs are the Little Sisters homes in Denver and Baltimore.
After the trial court and Tenth Circuit denied a preliminary injunction, on New Year’s Eve Justice Sonia Sotomayor granted the Little Sisters a temporary injunction protecting them from enforcement of the mandate, which was scheduled to take effect against them at midnight. On January 24, 2014, the entire Supreme Court granted the Little Sisters an injunction pending appeal, protecting them from enforcement while they litigate their appeal at the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. That briefing has now been completed. Oral argument took place on December 8, 2014.
On July 14, 2015, in a departure from the U.S. Supreme Court’s protection of the Little Sisters of the Poor last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled that the Little Sisters must comply with the government’s HHS mandate. On July 23, 2015, the Little Sisters of the Poor appealed to the Supreme Court.