Government Continues Fight Against Little Sisters of the Poor

For Immediate Release:  September 8, 2014
Media Contact:  Emily Hardman, ehardman@becketfund.org, 202.349.7224

Updated: September 9, 2014 – Link to Little Sister’s Brief

Washington, D.C. – The government announced yesterday it will continue its legal battle against the Little Sisters of the Poor (see video), a religious order of nuns dedicated to serving the neediest elderly in society. The government is still trying to force the nuns to either violate their deeply held religious convictions or pay crippling fines to the IRS.

“Religious ministries in these cases serve tens of thousands of Americans, helping the poor and homeless and healing the sick. The Little Sisters of the Poor alone serve more than ten thousand of the elderly poor. These charities want to continue following their faith. They want to focus on ministry—such as sharing their faith and serving the poor—without worrying about the threat of massive IRS penalties,” said Adele Keim, Counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents the Little Sisters.  “The government has already exempted millions of Americans from this requirement for commercial or secular reasons, so it should certainly protect the Little Sisters for religious reasons.”

Yesterday’s developments at a federal appeals court in Denver are the latest stage in the government’s attempt to force the Little Sisters and other charities serving the needy to comply with the HHS Mandate. Although the Supreme Court previously required the Little Sisters to do nothing more than notify the government of their religious objection, the government issued new regulations last month in an attempt to circumvent the Supreme Court’s order. Yesterday’s action confirms that the government is continuing its fight to use the Little Sisters’ health plan–provided by Christian Brothers Services–to provide potentially life-terminating drugs and devices in violation of their religious beliefs. The new regulations provide that the nuns’ approval can be written on a different form, and be routed through the government to Christian Brothers and any other plan administrators.

“Merely offering the Little Sisters a different way to violate their religion does not ease their conscience,” said Keim. “Adding another layer of paperwork is a solution that only a bureaucrat could love. The federal government has many ways to deliver contraceptives. There’s no reason it should force nuns to do that for them; the First Amendment and Religious Freedom Restoration Act offers two very good reasons why it shouldn’t.”

The Little Sisters’ brief concerning the new rule will be filed later this evening. To date, approximately 90% of the courts addressing the contraception mandate—including the Supreme Court in three separate lawsuits—have protected religious ministries.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty has led the charge against the unconstitutional HHS mandate, winning a landmark victory at the U.S. Supreme Court in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. It currently represents the Little Sisters of the Poor, Mother Angelica’s Eternal Word Television Network, and Colorado Christian University, along with many other religious ministries.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Its recent cases include two major Supreme Court victories: the landmark ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 ruling in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys handling this case, please contactEmily Hardman, ehardman@becketfund.org, 202.349.7224.

###

Additional Information: