Guest post by Joe Hoft
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A California court has ruled against the Little Sisters of the Poor opening the door for other states to take away new religious freedom rules. Only in a far-left radical court could this happen.
A court in California ruled against the Catholic nuns from Little Sisters of the Poor. This group of nuns is committed to helping poor people. They’ve dedicated their lives to helping the poor. However, with Obamacare, the government mandated that they provide abortion care to those who are under the employment of their order. So the nuns sued with the position that the Obamacare law discriminated against their religious freedom. The Supreme Court agreed with their position in May of 2016 –
Today the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously protected the Little Sisters of the Poor from draconian government fines and recognized that the government does not need the Little Sisters to provide services such as the week after pill. The Court also noted the government finally admitted it could indeed meet its goals without involving the Little Sisters.
In its decision, the Supreme Court held that after its unprecedented call for supplemental briefing that the lower courts should again review the cases.
“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.”
On October 6, 2017, Health & Human Services issued a new rule with an updated, broad religious exemption that finally protected religious non-profits like the Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of Catholic nuns who care for the elderly poor. In its new rule, the government admitted that it broke the law by trying to force the Little Sisters and others to provide services like the week-after-pill in their health plans that violated their religious beliefs. That result should mean that the end is near for the Little Sisters’ lawsuit.
However, following the new mandate announcement, the state of California sued the federal government to take away the Little Sisters’ religious exemption. California admits that it has many of its own programs to provide contraceptives to women who want them. California never filed suit over the much larger secular exemptions created by the Obama Administration for big corporations—exemptions that applied to tens of millions more people than the religious exemption. California’s own mandate does not even apply to the Little Sisters of the Poor. And California has not identified a single actual person who had contraceptive coverage but will lose it because of this new rule.
Despite all this, California asked a judge to find that the Little Sisters should be forced to comply with the federal mandate (not a state mandate) or pay tens of millions of dollars of government fines.
On November 21, 2017, Becket intervened on behalf of the Little Sisters of the Poor in California and Pennsylvania. Becket has argued all along that the government has many ways to provide services to women who want them as well as protect the Little Sisters. Neither the federal government nor the state governments need nuns to help them give out contraceptives.
On December 12, the Little Sisters argued in an Oakland, California district court for their right to participate in the case and receive protection from government fines. On December 29, the court granted their motion to intervene in the case. In January 2018, the Little Sisters appealed to the Ninth Circuit to overturn a federal judge’s decision to invalidate the new HHS rule protecting the Sisters. On April 9, Becket filed its brief explaining why the states have no right to challenge this regulation, and why the new regulation is required by law and the 2016 Supreme Court order in Zubik v. Burwell.
Oral argument took place on October 19, 2018. On November 7, 2018 the government issued a new rule finalizing its exemption protecting religious ministries. On December 13, 2018, the Ninth Circuit ruled against HHS’s interim exemption and allowed California to continue its fight against the Little Sisters. The Ninth Circuit ruling did not address the final HHS rules.
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— BECKET (@BECKETlaw) January 13, 2019