The U.S. Supreme Court has granted a group of Catholic nuns a temporary hold with regards to the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate requiring employers to provide ready-access to contraceptives, something which the Catholic Church is opposed to from a moral perspective. The HHS mandate requires all employers offering health insurance to participate in the free access to contraceptives, regardless of for-profit status or religious affiliation. This stay, although temporary, is another win in a string of arguments by Christian-related employers across the country against the requirement for them to violate their religious and moral grounds to provide access to contraceptives.
Originally, in December, the motion for a stay was refused because the Little Sisters are considered exempt as they are a religious organization. But other groups that are associated with a particular set of religious beliefs are not considered exempt because they are not considered a religious organization. Employers such as Hobby Lobby and Chick-Fil-A have long fought against the mandate, which goes against their deeply-rooted Christian belief system against contraceptives.
The “exemption” only applies directly to the Little Sisters, not to their actual insurance program. While the Little Sisters would be free to choose not to provide contraception, their insurance company would not be afforded the same exemption, and would still be required to provide contraception to other participants of the plan.
Without the stay, the Mother Provincial of the Little Sisters would have had to decide between submitting a self-certification and violating her beliefs, or paying fines. Apparently, the fact that she represents a specific religious group (that is, a group of Catholic sisters) means nothing with regard to the rights she has in this country. The HHS mandate has been called a “blatant violation of the religious freedom that Americans have enjoyed for more than 220 years,” by Senator Roy Blunt. He applauded Justice Sotomayor’s move to provide a stay and maintain the Constitutional rights of the Little Sisters.
The rights to religious freedom, whatever form that takes (within the bounds of the law) are something that has made the United States a shining beacon of freedom in the world. But when people who have deep religious beliefs, such as a group of Catholic nuns, are required to violate their beliefs in order to abide by the law, something is wrong. As Americans we should be free to practice our beliefs and live them as a part of our daily lives, and when the government chooses to enact laws that disrupt that freedom, it is up to the right-minded Americans of this country to stand up and fight against the injustice.