Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwell

Meet the Little Sisters of the Poor as they fight the government
to keep their ministry alive. 

Humble Beginnings

Thousands of elderly poor have a home today because of one remarkable woman.

Saint Jeanne Jugan grew up in a small town in the aftermath of the French revolution. Times were hard. The winters were brutal. To support her family, Jeanne worked from a young age as a shepherdess, kitchen maid, and tending the sick at a Civil and Naval Hospital. In this last position, she discovered her life’s vocation: helping others.

Confident in her Catholic faith, Jeanne set out to serve those most in need. She cared for the poor and the elderly as if they were her own family, even giving them her bed while she slept in the attic. Her humility and love of service spread among other young women, and the religious community of the Little Sisters of the Poor was born.

A Vocation to Serve the Poor

Today, the Little Sisters of the Poor–an international Roman Catholic Congregation of Religious Sisters–have continued Jeanne’s mission to serve others. 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 Defends the Little Sisters

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. The suit seeks protection not only for the Little Sisters, but for other Catholic organizations that  provide health benefits consistent with their religious faith through the Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust and Christian Brothers Services.  This is the 7th lawsuit challenging the administration’s HHS Mandate filed by the Becket Fund, which also represents: Belmont Abbey College, Colorado Christian University, East Texas Baptist University, Houston Baptist University, Ave Maria University, Wheaton College, Reaching Souls International, and Hobby Lobby in similar lawsuits.

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.

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The Kelly File, July 14, 2015









Fox News On the Record w/ Greta Van Susteren, December 8, 2014









Video: Meet the Little Sisters of the Poor
Mark with Cavuto on FOX 9.27

Fox News The Kelly File, February 26, 2014
Mark with Cavuto on FOX 9.27








Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, January 3, 2014
Mark with Cavuto on FOX 9.27








CNN The Lead with Jake Tapper, January 3, 2014








Video: Fox News “The Kelly File,” January 3, 2014
Mark with Cavuto on FOX 9.27








Video: Fox News “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren,” January 2, 2014
Mark with Cavuto on FOX 9.27









Video Footage of Sr. Loraine Marie Maguire’s Statement after Oral Argument on December 8, 2014