The Little Sisters of the Poor, a 175 year old Catholic organization which takes care of the elderly and infirm, has been ordered by the 10th Court of Circuit Appeals in Denver to comply with the HHS Mandate requiring employer-sponsored health insurance to provide free access to contraceptives and abortifacients. The group had been authorized to utilize a third party to comply with that aspect of the Affordable Care Act, but still felt that it was in direct violation of their deeply-held Catholic beliefs that the use of contraceptives constitutes sinful behavior. The Supreme Court ruled a year ago that for-profit groups could be exempt from the law, based on religious beliefs, and specific houses of worship are also exempt. But that leaves non-profit organizations, many of them Catholic and doing good work in their community, faced with violating their beliefs or paying stiff fines. The Sisters are appealing to the Supreme Court, and joining a class action lawsuit of over 500 plaintiffs who believe that forcing religious-based employers – of any kind – to violate their beliefs is a direct violation of the First Amendment and the Right to Freedom of Religion.
These organizations should be focused on doing the good work that they set out to do, not wrangling with legal code requiring them to violate their religious beliefs. The Affordable Care Act has plenty of provisions for providing health care coverage in other aspects, there is no reason it cannot cover the contraceptives it requires and allow groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor to go on with their Catholic mission without having to worry about fees or fines for violating a law which clearly is Unconstitutional. No employer – private, for-profit, or non-profit – should have their Rights violated in the name of a law that has been proven to be Unconstitutional. Yet these groups continue to be challenged, and the lawsuits continue to be filed. It was expected that with the Hobby Lobby ruling last year the case would be settled, but that does not seem to be the situation.