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Appeals Court Denies Nuns Exemption from Contraception Mandate

Appeals Court Denies Nuns Exemption from Contraception Mandate

Down, but not out

Since the Supreme Court handed down its landmark Hobby Lobby decision last year, lawyers and activists on both sides of the Obamacare contraception mandate have been trying to outmaneuver each other on the technicalities of exemptions. Four appeals courts have ruled in favor of the government mandate, but until this week, one case served as both a holdout for religious freedom, and a thorn in the Obama Administration’s side.

The Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Roman Catholic nuns, were granted a temporary exemption from the mandate by the Supreme Court last year. They then went before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in an attempt to extend that protection, but were denied. Today, the 10th Circuit upheld that ruling, saying that compliance requirements “do not substantially burden plaintiffs’ religious exercise or violate the plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights.” Now, the Little Sisters are faced with either complying with the mandate, or paying massive IRS penalties.

Via The Hill:

Under the contraceptive mandate, nonprofit religious groups like Little Sisters of the Poor are permitted to opt out of the requirement if they report their concerns to their insurance companies or the federal government.

But that group and others have objected to any extra steps to obtain the exemption. Instead, they are seeking the same treatment as houses of worship, which are not required to fill out additional paperwork in order to avoid fines under the law.

“It is a national embarrassment that the world’s most powerful government insists that, instead of providing contraceptives through its own existing exchanges and programs, it must crush the Little Sisters’ faith and force them to participate,” Mark Rienzi, lead attorney for the Little Sisters of the Poor, wrote in a statement.

Rienzi, who accused federal officials of “hijacking” the nuns’ health plan, said the group’s attorneys are considering whether to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

In its opinion, the court compared the exemption process to applying for a parade permit or registering to vote, and rejected the idea that the organization’s participation in the mandate scheme makes it complicit in the overall delivery of contraceptives.

Many outlets are touting this as an “end of the road” ruling for the Little Sisters, and other similar organizations, but Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and lead attorney for the Little Sisters of the Poor, has publicly stated that he will review an appeal to the Supreme Court:

“We’re disappointed with today’s decision. After losing repeatedly at the Supreme Court, the government continues its unrelenting pursuit of the Little Sisters of the Poor. It is a national embarrassment that the world’s most powerful government insists that, instead of providing contraceptives through its own existing exchanges and programs, it must crush the Little Sisters’ faith and force them to participate,” he said. “Untold millions of people have managed to get contraceptives without involving nuns, and there is no reason the government cannot run its programs without hijacking the Little Sisters and their health plan.”

We’ll keep you posted on the status of the appeal.

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Comments

The court ruling essentially held that The Little Sisters have to ask permission of the Feds before they can “exercise” their religion.

I do not think the First Amendment means what you think it means, judge.

There is no, “Big Brother, may I?” clause.

    Not A Member of Any Organized Political in reply to Ragspierre. | July 14, 2015 at 5:08 pm

    Who’d have thunk it!

    We’ve got the most UN-educated judges in the world. Either that or the most propagandized and corrupt!

    What are the odds on each?

    Frank G in reply to Ragspierre. | July 14, 2015 at 6:12 pm

    Their alternative would seem to be to quit the Health game, which the Single-Payer Cult would love….

    Milhouse in reply to Ragspierre. | July 14, 2015 at 6:46 pm

    Rags, the first amendment does not require the government to exempt anyone from the same laws that apply to everyone, no matter how severely it burdens their conscience. That’s clearly established law. This case was proceeding under RFRA, which is not a constitutional requirement but an act of Congress, forbidding the government from substantially burdening anyone’s exercise of religion, unless it survives strict scrutiny. If this is not a substantial burden (and if the description in the article is accurate, unlike my previous understanding, then it isn’t), then there’s no RFRA violation.

      Presume that you are correct in your analysis ( And, I do not do so in fact.), then the 1A does not in fact allow for the LSOP to continue to practice its religion as it so desires (And, this ignores whether the Pope and the Catholic Church agrees, or not, with the LSOP!), for the federal government has then determined how that religion may be practiced, in its form and its expression. What then would “freedom of religion” mean?

      Were your analysis to be correct, then those that decry so-called hate speech will shortly then demand an end to that hate speech, which might mean what you say, maybe even what I say, would not be deemed to be proper, acceptable, speech. My premise is that weakening one part of the 1A, weakens the other aspects in ways not foreseen until “they” stike.

      Your analysis, IMHO, leads the USA down a mighty rocky road and to what end would be highly disputed.

Employers everywhere need to just stop offering health insurance and pay the fine. Once everyone is forced into the exchanges, elections will get very interesting.

If all they’re required to do is write a letter to the Feds, telling them in their own words that their religion forbids them from covering the specified pills, then the 10th circuit is right; that is not a substantial burden, and the government has the constitutional right to impose it on them.

As I understood it until now, the government demanded that they file a form which not only stated their objection but also asked the government to cover the abortofacients in their stead, and that was their objection. Making such a request would definitely be a substantial burden on their consciences.

    JerryB in reply to Milhouse. | July 14, 2015 at 7:26 pm

    Sign ze paper, Sister. Zat is all you have to do.

    Why won’t the Feds just sign it and take the credit for being nice to the Sisters? Because they want to force the Sisters to do the will of Dear Leader, that’s why. It’s a burden of conscience to go along with it, because they’d be admitting that the law is a valid law before God.

    Welcome to the new tyranny, the new fascism. Sign ze paper!

    Skookum in reply to Milhouse. | July 14, 2015 at 11:01 pm

    I believe your second paragraph is correct. As I recall, the Little Sisters can sort of opt out, but that merely means their premiums are given to someone else who hands out the contraceptives.

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