CNA Staff, Jul 8, 2020 / 09:40 am
Catholic leaders and religious liberty advocates have welcomed the Supreme Court ruling in favor of the Little Sisters of the Poor on Wednesday, calling it a victory for freedom of conscience and the freedom of religious people to serve the poor.
“We are overjoyed that, once again, the Supreme Court has protected our right to serve the elderly without violating our faith,” said Mother Loraine Marie Maguire of the Little Sisters in a statement July 8.
“Our life’s work and great joy is serving the elderly poor and we are so grateful that the contraceptive mandate will no longer steal our attention from our calling.”
The Little Sisters’ victory at the Supreme Court on Wednesday comes nine years into their legal fight against the Obama-era “contraception mandate” which obliges employers to provide cost-free coverage for contraceptives, sterilizations, and “emergency birth control” in employee health plans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
In 2017, the Trump administration granted a religious and moral exemption to the mandate for the sisters and other objecting groups, but then states including Pennsylvania and California filed lawsuits saying that the burden of providing coverage was being shifted onto the states and claiming that the administration violated the Administrative Procedure Act in setting up the exemption.
On Wednesday, the court found that the Trump administration “had the statutory authority to craft that exemption, as well as the contemporaneously issued moral exemption,” and “that the rules promulgating these exemptions are free from procedural defects.”
Mark Rienzi, president of Becket, the religious freedom legal group which represented the sisters, said Wednesday that “America deserves better than petty governments harassing nuns.”
“The court did the right thing by protecting the Little Sisters from an unnecessary mandate that would have gutted their ministry,” Rienzi said. “Governments don’t need nuns to distribute contraceptives. But they do need religious groups to care for the elderly, heal the sick and feed the hungry.”