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Current Page: Politics | Tuesday, September 09, 2014
After Losing to Hobby Lobby, Obama Fighting Nuns Over Birth Control Mandate

After Losing to Hobby Lobby, Obama Fighting Nuns Over Birth Control Mandate

A nun working for the Little Sisters of the Poor cares for an elderly patient. | (Photo: Becket Fund for Religious Liberty)

The federal government has decided to continue its legal action regarding a lawsuit from a Catholic order seeking an exemption from the Health and Human Services Department's contraception mandate.

In a "supplemental brief for the government" filed Monday in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, the government decided it will continue to defend the mandate against a suit by the Little Sisters of the Poor.

"This Court should proceed with oral argument in these cases," read the brief, adding that it is "crucial that these appeals be resolved now."

"Because of the injunctions issued in these cases, the women employed by plaintiffs have been and continue to be denied access to contraceptive coverage."

The Little Sisters are being represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is overseeing dozens of lawsuits against HHS over the "preventive services" mandate.

Adèle Keim, counsel with The Becket Fund, told The Christian Post that she was "disappointed" in the government's ongoing legal effort.

"We're disappointed that the government still insists on picking religious winners and losers, and exempting churches while telling the Little Sisters of the Poor that they're not religious enough'," said Keim.

"The government has proposed new rules that would apply to for-profit organizations, and it has dropped many of its appeals in for-profit cases. But for non-profits, it has issued new rules, effective now, and has gone full steam ahead with its litigation."

As the Little Sisters' lawsuit continued to progress, the federal government revised its rules on granting accomodations for non-profits.

Originally, HHS allowed for non-profits to be exempted provided they sign a form and send it to a third party that would provide the contraceptive coverage.

Groups like Little Sisters found this to still be in conflict with their beliefs, arguing that approving a form still involved them in supporting practices they find morally objectionable.

The new rules, released last month, added an additional layer, giving nonprofits the option of contacting HHS about their objections and then HHS being the entity that contacted the third party. But HHS is still requiring Little Sisters to sign a form that could activate the coverage that they find morally objectionable.

Last September, the Little Sisters of the Poor filed a suit against HHS over the controversial "preventive services" mandate, arguing that it violated their conscience to be connected to providing birth control coverage.

While the mandate exempts churches under the "religious employers" category, the Little Sisters did not receive an automatic exemption.

"We believe the government's attempt to coerce us in this manner is wrong, and that it violates our religious liberty," stated the Little Sisters last year.

"So, like many other Catholic and religious institutions around the country, we felt the need to seek legal recourse."

In January, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor granted the Little Sisters a temporary injunction, protecting them from having to conform to the mandate as their case continued.

"… respondents are temporarily enjoined from enforcing against applicants the contraceptive coverage requirements imposed by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act," ordered Sotomayor.

During the summer, the Tenth Circuit scheduled oral arguments for the appeal in the Little Sisters lawsuit for Monday, September 29.

"All sides have asked the court to keep that oral argument date, and we are waiting to hear from the court about whether it will do so in light of the government's new rules," said Keim to CP.

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