By Dave Andrusko
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty reported today that last week “Multiple orders of Catholic and Anglican nuns, alongside several Catholic dioceses, Christian churches, and faith-based social justice ministries” filed a brief asking the Supreme Court to hear its case against a New York abortion mandate. The case is Diocese of Albany v. Lacewell
The coalition had sued New York after its Department of Financial Services required that all employers cover abortions in their health insurance plans. Having lost at the state court, “the religious organizations have now petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to protect their right to operate their ministries without being forced to provide abortions.”
“Our faith tells us that every life is precious from the moment of conception to the final breath. That’s why we spend our lives praying and serving to lift others’ burdens,” said Mother Miriam, of the Sisterhood of Saint Mary, the oldest religious order founded in America in the Anglican tradition. “New York has told us that if we want to hold our beliefs about the sanctity of life, we have to stop serving non-Anglicans. We cannot compromise on our religious beliefs, or in our service to people of all faiths or no faith at all. That’s why we need relief from the Supreme Court.”
As is always the case, “assurances” had been given when the New York State Department of Financial Services’ initial abortion mandate was proposed. The Department, Becket explained.
promised to respect the First Amendment by exempting employers with religious objections. But after facing pressure from abortion activists, New York narrowed the exemption to protect only religious entities whose purpose is to inculcate religious values and who primarily serve and hire coreligionists. This narrow exemption thus doesn’t apply to most religious ministries that serve people regardless of their faith. For example, the exemption doesn’t extend to the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm and their Teresian Nursing Home because they serve the elderly and dying regardless of religious affiliation. Nor does it extend to the First Bible Baptist Church, which operates social justice ministries for underserved community members.
According to Lori Windham, senior counsel at Becket, “New York’s failure to learn from the Little Sisters of the Poor saga that you can’t make nuns pay for abortions is beyond reason. The Court needs to step in and teach New York that lesson.”