Martin Bürger reports for LifeSiteNews — Today, the Little Sisters of the Poor, pro-life nuns who care for the elderly, are once again part of a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Their goal is to stop the government from forcing the Catholic community to participate in the provision of contraceptives and life-ending drugs to their employees.
The Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments at 10:00 a.m. EST. Given the coronavirus restrictions on public gatherings, everything is set to take place remotely by phone.
“The Court will provide a live audio feed of the arguments to FOX News (the network pool chair), the Associated Press, and C-SPAN, and they will in turn provide a simultaneous feed for the oral arguments to livestream on various media platforms,” the Supreme Court announced.
Preceding the oral arguments, there was a “virtual” rally to support the Little Sisters of the Poor. “Leaders from around the country will offer messages of support for the Little Sisters of the Poor as they head (virtually) to the Supreme Court,” the organizers stated.
The rally closed with a rosary prayed by different religious communities.
The Obama administration had first mandated employers to participate in or help facilitate the provision of contraceptives, as well as abortifacient drugs, to their employees. The Little Sisters of the Poor refused to go along with the new policy, as did Hobby Lobby and other religious entities.
If the Little Sisters of the Poor – pro-life Catholic nuns – were forced to provide contraceptive and life-ending drugs and devices, they would explicitly contradict their mission of respecting the dignity of every human life.
On October 6, 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services came out with an updated, broad religious exemption protecting communities like the Little Sisters of the Poor from having to provide goods and services that would violate their conscience.
Thus, the Trump administration admitted that the federal government broke the law by trying to force the Little Sisters and others to provide services like the week-after-pill in their health plans that violated their religious beliefs.
Nevertheless, the state of Pennsylvania went on to sue the federal government, arguing the religious exemption should be removed.
“Pennsylvania admits that it already has and already uses many government programs to provide contraceptives to women who need them,” wrote Becket Law, the religious liberty law firm representing the Little Sisters of the Poor.
“Pennsylvania never challenged the Obama Administration for creating much larger exceptions for secular corporations – exceptions that covered tens of millions more people than the religious exemption,” Becket pointed out. “Pennsylvania does not even have its own contraceptive mandate at all. And Pennsylvania’s lawsuit does not identify a single real person who previously had contraceptive coverage but will lose it because of the new Rule.”
If Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, prevails before the Supreme Court, and the sisters refuse to comply, they would be forced to pay millions of dollars in fines.
Beginning in November 2017, Becket intervened on behalf of the Little Sisters of the Poor in California and Pennsylvania, working its way through the court system.
Countless groups, including the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Knights of Columbus, as well as many legislators, have filed amicus curiae briefs, supporting the Catholic nuns in their fight.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg phoned into oral arguments from Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, where the 87-year-old underwent “non-surgical treatment for acute cholecystitis, a benign gallbladder condition” on May 5, according to the Court.