Supreme Court hears Little Sisters of the Poor defend their right not to be compelled to pay for health coverage for products and procedures they find “morally unacceptable”

By Dave Andrusko

Freedom of conscience and the freedom to practice one’s faith are cornerstones of the American experience. To the abortion industry, however, they are tiresome, “religious” barriers to commandeering each and every one of us, directly or indirectly, into an offensive to weave abortion into every thread of American life.

At first glance, you might think the Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, and New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal would be embarrassed about going after the Little Sisters of the Poor. But you would be wrong.

In Little Sisters of the Poor v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Supreme Court this morning heard arguments about whether these Catholic nuns, and others with religious and moral objections, are bound by a mandate, issued by HHS under a provision of ObamaCare, which would force them to provide health insurance coverage for products and procedures they find “‘morally unacceptable.”

The Order, which serves the poor and the elderly, has fought the mandate for seven years and seemingly had finally prevailed when HHS announced a new rule to protect religious non-profits, including the Little Sisters of the Poor. That proved too much for several states, including Pennsylvania and California and New Jersey, who went to court.

At issue before the Justices today, who are conducting oral arguments by teleconference, is the nationwide injunction issued by the 3rd Circuit blocking the HHS rule. The Trump administration asked the High Court to reverse the injunction.

The issues at stake are fundamental. As a brief filed by 92 Members of the House and Senate argued

The Third Circuit’s decision below is a direct assault on RFRA [Religious Freedom Restoration Act] and imposes a drastic and unprecedented restriction on federal agencies’ ability to protect religious liberty. It must be reviewed and reversed.

The one-two punch delivered by the Third Circuit both permits an agency to implement regulations that burden religious exercise, and also restricts the Executive from providing sufficient religious accommodations to temper that burden. That pair of rulings runs roughshod over RFRA’s requirement that all laws—including all regulations promulgated to “implement[]” statutory law—be interpreted and construed to provide the greatest possible protection to freedom of conscience and religious exercise.

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