California Wants to 'Force Us to Violate Our Faith,' Says Little Sisters of the Poor

(Photo: The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty)Members of a Catholic order of nuns known as the Little Sisters of the Poor stand outside the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals building in Denver, Colorado, along with William Mumma, President of the Becket Fund.

A long-serving member of the Little Sisters of the Poor has denounced a recent lawsuit by the state of California against the Trump administration's decision to broaden the federal exemption to the Department of Health and Human Services' birth control mandate.

The Little Sisters argued against a lawsuit filed by Calif. Attorney General Xavier Becerra against the federal government in district court in Oakland on Tuesday.

Mother Maria Christine, who has been with the Little Sisters for over 40 years, described the California attorney general's new lawsuit as "yet another effort to force us to violate our faith and provide services like the week after pill in our health care plans against our beliefs."

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"We don't understand why the state of California is doing this when the government has long exempted big business such as Exxon, Chevron, and Pepsi," said Mother Maria at a press conference held outside the Oakland courthouse.

"We pray that soon this trying time will be over; that the court today will rule as the Supreme Court ruled last year saying the government doesn't need us in order to provide these services to women. As Little Sisters of the Poor, all we want is to do is follow our calling to love and to serve the most vulernable of us as if they were Christ Himself."

In early October, Attorney General Becerra filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against the Trump administration's new HHS rule.

At issue for Becerra was the broadening of the conscience exemption, which Becerra claimed in a statement released Oct. 6 would harm women's access to reproductive health.

"Donald Trump wants businesses and corporations to control family planning decisions rather than a woman in consultation with her doctor. These anti-women's health regulations prove once again that the Trump administration is willing to trample on people's rights," stated Becerra.

"What group of Americans will they target next? Will they allow businesses to deny you cancer treatment? Will they exclude you from insurance coverage because of a pre-existing health condition? The California Department of Justice will fight to protect every woman's right to healthcare, including reproductive healthcare."

Delaware, Maryland, New York, and Virginia joined the California suit, with Pennsylvania's attorney general filing a separate complaint.

In May, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated similar lawsuits after the Barack Obama administration acknowledged that it could provide the contraceptive services without the participation of the Little Sisters. 

Last month, Becket filed motions to intervene in both the California and Pennsylvania suits on behalf of the Little Sisters, with Becket Senior Counsel Mark Rienzi calling the two states' lawsuits against the federal government an "unnecessary culture war."

"The Little Sisters will tell the judges in these new cases what they have successfully told the Supreme Court time and again: that governments do not need nuns to give out contraceptives, that our big country has room enough and space enough for diversity of ideas," said Rienzi in a November press call.

"We can have both people who want contraceptives and nuns who can't give them out ... the Constitution surely does not require the federal government to punish the Little Sisters or any other religious person for living out her faith."

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