Big government v. Little Sisters

Cynics sometimes suggest Fighting Illini sports teams take on the Little Sisters of the Poor — but the Obama administration really does.

The rollout of the Affordable Care Act has been fraught with technical and substantive problems, to the point that one might think it could hardly be worse.

Well, it has gotten worse.

President Barack Obama's Justice Department is now engaged in a legal battle that seeks to force Obamacare's birth control mandate on a Denver organization that contends the mandate violates its right to religious liberty.

Who are these rebels Obama & Co. must crush? None other than the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Roman Catholic nuns that runs a nursing home. They insist that being required to finance a mandate that provides contraceptives, abortifacient drugs and sterilization procedures infringes on the beliefs of the Catholic Church to which they have devoted their lives.

Last week, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued an order blocking federal officials from forcing the birth control et al mandate on the Little Sisters. If the Obamacare provision ultimately is enforced, this Catholic-affiliated institution either will be forced to engage in conduct that either violates its religious principles or pay fines it cannot afford.

After Justice Sotomayor issued her stay, Solicitor General Donald Verilli responded with a legal motion, insisting the Little Sisters' concerns are unfounded and requesting they be forced to comply.

This latest effort by the Obama administration to force the birth control mandate on those who oppose it for religious reasons continues a disturbing trend. The Obama administration is not just indifferent, but overtly hostile, to religious freedom when it conflicts with its policy goals.

Recognizing the public-relations problem inherent in forcing religious-based institutions to embrace the birth control mandate, the administration months ago came up with a nonsensical plan whereby insurance companies would provide the coverage at no cost if a religious objection was filed.

That's unpersuasive for at least two reasons. There is no "free" when it comes to health care. Insurance companies will simply include the cost of the so-called mandate in the overall price. Second, as the Little Sisters argue, filing the objection the administration seeks is a linchpin in meeting the mandate, rendering the nuns complicit in an action they find reprehensible on religious grounds.

It's impossible to deny that the Little Sisters' views stem from a religious faith that guides their daily lives. It's impossible to deny that the nursing home they run is affiliated with the Catholic Church. It's impossible to deny that forcing the birth control mandate on the nuns and the church conflicts with their fundamental religious beliefs.

But it also is impossible to predict how this Supreme Court will resolve this dispute. It is, however, encouraging that Justice Sotomayor issued the stay. Perhaps it foreshadows a stinging rebuke of this attack on the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights.

Sections (2):Editorials, Opinion

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Sid Saltfork wrote on January 08, 2014 at 10:01 am

The nuns do not have to engage in utilizing the entire insurance policy offerred to them.  They are forcing their religious views on their employees.  They may choose not to utilize birth control, but their employees may choose to do so.  Who are the employees in the nursing home?  Are they just like the employees in any nursing home?  Are they the working poor?  Do they need to control family size for economic reasons?  There is a separation of State and Religion; and in this situation religion has it's nose in the State's business. 

Sancho Panza wrote on January 08, 2014 at 5:01 pm

Sid,

Of course the nuns don't have to utilize the policy offered.  It is funding other people having abortions that they are objecting to.

Three questions for you:

Which religious views are they forcing on their employees?  Does their employee's religion require other people pay for sacrificing their fetusus?

Are you promoting the idea that the working poor should be sterilized?

Are the nuns able to control the sizes of their families without violating their religion? 

 

Nice Davis wrote on January 09, 2014 at 7:01 am

Wow, what an incredible set of questions.

When you throw around terms like "sacrificing their fetuses" and "the working poor should be sterilized", it's obvious you're not interested in having a good faith discussion.

I'd love to know what other employer-held religious beliefs you think should be allowed to limit employee health coverage. Jehovah's Witnesses won't accept blood transfusions...do you think a JW employer should be allowed to restrict his non-JW employees' access to blood transfusions through employer-provided coverage? Your answer to that must be yes if you expect to be taken seriously as someone making a logically coherent argument.

I suggest you bone up on Employment Division vs. Smith to learn a little about what the Constitutional standard for the standard that applies to religous objections in the face of generall-applicable law.

Sancho Panza wrote on January 09, 2014 at 10:01 am

Sorry if it took you aback by reading between the lines of Sid's arguments.  With the fetal sacrifice comment I was identifying the only conceivable infringment of the employee's freedoms stemming from the nuns not paying for their employee to have an abortion.  There is a difference between these nuns being forced to pay for their employees abortions, versus allowing their employees to spend their money as they see fit while away from work.  There is no way in which not paying for abortion benefits could be construed to be an infringment on their employee's religious liberties other than the option I had presented. 

I think theat Johovah's Witnesses should not be forced to pay for employee's blood transfusions.  They should clearly state that this benifit, which is in most health insurance poloicies, is not included in they health insurance that they are providing.  The employees should be able to purchase supplimental insurance that would cover these transfusions independant of their employer.  

In your reading of the peyote case, would the government be within its powers to force everyone (including Jews and Muslims) to purchase pork products?

 

 

Sid Saltfork wrote on January 09, 2014 at 11:01 am

Where are the lowly paid nursing home employees going to find the money for "supplimental" insurance?  The employer is paying for insurance.  The insurance company is paying for the items covered by the insurance policy.  According to you if I as an employer do not believe in paying for maternity care for unwed female employees, I should not be required to pay for insurance on my employees.  The list would go on, and on based on the employer's faith, and stinginess.  You think that "theat Johovah's Witnesses" should not be required to pay for insurance that includes blood transfusions.  Well, who is going to pay for the blood transfusions?  You, and I as taxpayers are going to pay for them through Medicaid.  By the way; birth control is not abortion benefits.  Birth control keeps women from having unwanted pregnancies.  Oh...wait... I see where you are going.  It is about not doing the nasty.  Your against sex.

 

Sancho Panza wrote on January 09, 2014 at 6:01 pm

Money that goes for insurance could go to wages instead. If this group of nuns is not stingy and had the cash to pay for “better” insurance, they could just as well pay their employees a bit more, and everyone would benefit.

I think that preventative birth control is not the crux of the issue from a financial standpoint for any party involved.  Even if paid minimum wage, preventative birth control is less than 1% of an individual's monthly budget.  Abortion on the other hand would be a major expense for the poor, thus necessitating using savings, government benefits, or insurance.  

I think there are two fundamental differences on our opinions: 1) Should the government have the ability to force people to buy products or services  2) Should religious people be able to freely practice?  I think the answers are no and yes, respectively; and your answers are reversed.  This is why I have no problem protecting Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc. from coercion. Of course both of us can come up with examples ad nauseam that may make the other side appear foolish (birth control, fetal sacrifice, blood transfusions, pork products), but in general I would rather err on the side of freedom.  

Sid Saltfork wrote on January 09, 2014 at 9:01 am

In response to the windmill jouster's companion; the working poor have enough of a problem feeding those children that they have now.  If no birth control is offered, the future children will end up being supported by the rest of society via programs based on taxes.  The working poor population is expanding now due to increased technology, and changing skills in employment.  The majority of nursing home employees are women.  It is ironic that one group of women are opposed to their poorer sisters having a choice in family size.  The nuns are required to offer insurance to their employees unless they work the employees less than what is considered full time employment.  That would make the employees even poorer.  As a Catholic; I find your arguement, and that of the nuns sick.  Instead of the sisters helping the poor, they are making them poorer.  

The religious views of employers should have no bearing on insurance coverage of their employees.  Picking, and choosing what employees may receive under insurance coverage when the cost is the same does not show compassion, and empathy.  It shows egotism, and disregard.  "Thou shall not do anything that I as an employer do not approve."

 

Nice Davis wrote on January 09, 2014 at 2:01 pm

Let's keep in mind too that what the nuns are objecting too is the signing of a form that gives them the religious exemption. Not having to take birth control themselves. Not having to even pay for it themselves. Basically, the nuns (and other religious groups in similar situations) desired a religious accomodation, got the government to create that accomodation, and now are refusing to sign the form allowing them to participate in the very accomodation they demanded. It is disingenuous, madness, or both.