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.