Visa, Chevron, and Pepsi are exempt from the HHS mandate – but the Little Sisters aren't

A resident and a sister arrange flowers at the Little Sisters of the Poor's Mullen Home in Denver, CO in this undated file photo. Credit: El Pueblo Catolico/James Baca.
A resident and a sister arrange flowers at the Little Sisters of the Poor's Mullen Home in Denver, CO in this undated file photo. Credit: El Pueblo Catolico/James Baca.

.- While Catholic nuns are required to obey health care regulations that they say violate the teachings of their faith, large corporations like ExxonMobil are exempt, a new website says.

That fact and other details of the Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwell court case are available on the new site:, announced the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the legal group that represents the sisters, on Tuesday.

“This website demonstrates that everything the Little Sisters of the Poor do is motivated by faith,” said Melinda Skea, director of communications for the Becket Fund. “It also shows that the government has very weak claims to force the Little Sisters to violate their faith.”

Issued under the Affordable Care Act, the HHS mandate requires employers to offer free coverage for contraception, sterilization and some drugs that can cause abortions.

The regulation has sparked a years-long dispute between the administration and hundreds of plaintiffs nationwide, who argue that the mandate forces them to violate their religious convictions.

Meanwhile, some other health plans have been “grandfathered” in and are not subject to the mandate. These include plans offered by ExxonMobil, Chevron, Visa Inc. and PepsiCo.

Furthermore, the U.S. Military includes a family insurance plan that does not offer the mandated services.

And, according to the website, one in three Americans do not have a health plan that satisfies the mandate. The Little Sisters say that since so many employers are offered exemptions under various justifications, there is no reason that they should not receive a religious exemption as well.

While a narrow religious exemption to the mandate is offered to houses of worship and their affiliates, many faith-based charities and non-profits – including the Little Sisters – do not qualify due to a stipulation in tax law that was used to determine religious exemptions.

Instead, the administration has offered what it calls an “accommodation” whereby religious non-profits such as the Little Sisters can notify the government of their moral objections, and government in turn will order the issuer of their health plan to provide the coverage.

However, the Little Sisters argue that this still violates their religious beliefs because they would ultimately be facilitating access to services they believe are immoral. Failure to comply with the mandate would mean fines estimated at $2.5 million per year – 40 percent of what the sisters beg for annually to run their ministry.  

The sisters’ case against the mandate is currently before the Supreme Court as part of a bundle of cases. The oral arguments for the case are set for March 23.

The website also tells the story of the Little Sisters, whose foundress St. Jeanne Jugan cared for the poor and the elderly around her in post-revolution France, even picking up an elderly woman off the street and offering her own bed to the woman.

After 175 years, the Little Sisters minister to over 31,000 poor persons in 31 countries. They operate almost 30 homes for the elderly and the dying in the U.S.

A typical day for a sister involves a 5:30 a.m. wake-up, prayer, caring for the elderly in their particular home, and recreation.

“To be a Little Sister is we care for the elderly until the end. It’s not like a coming and going. Once they come in, they belong to our family,” stated Sister Georgia in a video featured on the website.

“And that’s our greatest joy, being at the service of the others and the elderly,” she continued.

Tags: Religious freedom, Contraception, Supreme Court, HHS mandate, Little Sisters of the Poor


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