They crafted narrow religious exemptions for churches and their affiliates (such as parish groups and schools) using tax law. Religious non-profits who objected to having to provide the coverage, however, were not exempt from the mandate.
The administration then offered an “accommodation” for these objecting non-profits. The non-profits would send a form to the government stating their objection, and the government would then notify their insurer, who would provide the coverage at a separate cost.
Plaintiffs such as the Little Sisters, however, argue that they would still be cooperating with actions they believe are seriously immoral by facilitating the contraception coverage. Faced with steep fines for not complying with the mandate, and with no other option than violating their conscience, they took the case to court.
Institutions that are not exempt from the mandate include the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, dioceses, Catholic universities, adoption agencies, hospitals, and charities such as the Little Sisters. Hundreds of plaintiffs have filed lawsuits against the federal government over the mandate.
If the mandate goes into effect, the penalty for not providing the contraception and sterilization coverage could be up to $70 million a year for the Little Sisters.
However, health plans of large corporations such as Visa and PepsiCo are exempt from the mandate as they were “grandfathered” into the law’s requirements. An estimated one in three Americans are exempt from the mandate’s requirements.
Members of Congress held a press conference Tuesday afternoon supporting the Little Sisters in the name of religious freedom.
“This is not a partisan issue. This cannot be a partisan issue. It is a fundamental right,” Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) said of the case and of the freedom of Americans to practice their religion in public.
“The Supreme Court has the opportunity to stand up for this fundamental right of all human beings, a right that’s guaranteed to us here in the Constitution,” he added.
“It seems fitting that the case should be heard by our nation’s highest court during Holy Week,” said Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.). She added that “neither religious belief nor practice ends at the threshold of a house of worship.”
“For me, it brings to mind Pope Benedict’s words about how ‘Charity is not a kind of welfare activity which could equally well be left to others, but is part of the Church’s nature, an indispensable expression of her very being,’” she said, quoting Benedict XVI's 2005 encyclical on Christian love, Deus caritas est.
“The people who serve in these ministries have dedicated their lives to living out their religious convictions, and they, not the government, are the best guide for what violates those principles.”
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
“I can tell you that there is precious little in this world that is more pure or worthwhile than their ministry,” Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) said of the Little Sisters.
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) recalled a conversation he shared with Sister Loraine Marie Maguire, Mother Provincial of the Little Sisters of the Poor:
“She said ‘I can’t sign a piece of paper that makes somebody else do what I cannot do myself. It’s my conscience, you know.’”