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Justice delays health law’s birth control mandate
January 1, 2014
By JESSE J. HOLLAND, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Only hours before the law was to take effect, a Supreme Court justice on Tuesday blocked implementation of part of President Barack Obama’s health care law that would have forced some religion-affiliated organizations to provide health insurance for employees that includes birth control.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s decision came after a flurry of efforts by Catholic-affiliated groups from around the nation. Those groups had rushed to the federal courts to stop Wednesday’s start of portions of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
Sotomayor acted on a request from an organization of Catholic nuns in Denver, the Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged. Its request for an emergency stay had been denied earlier in the day by a federal appeals court.
Thousands of elderly poor have a home today because of one remarkable woman.
Saint Jeanne Jugan grew up in a small town in the aftermath of the French revolution. Times were hard. The winters were brutal. To support her family, Jeanne worked from a young age as a shepherdess, kitchen maid, and tending the sick at a Civil and Naval Hospital. In this last position, she discovered her life’s vocation: helping others.
Confident in her Catholic faith, Jeanne set out to serve those most in need. She cared for the poor and the elderly as if they were her own family, even giving them her bed while she slept in the attic. Her humility and love of service spread among other young women, and the religious community of the Little Sisters of the Poor was born.
Today, the Little Sisters of the Poor–an international Roman Catholic Congregation of Religious Sisters–have continued Jeanne’s mission to serve others. The Little Sisters of the Poor arrived in America in 1868. Currently, there are thirty homes in the United States where the elderly and dying are treated as if they were Jesus himself and cared for with love and dignity until God calls them home. The Little Sisters serve more than 13,000 elderly poor people in thirty-one countries around the world.
The Little Sisters adhere to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. In accordance with their faith, they uphold the unique, inviolable dignity of all human life, especially those deemed weak or, to some, “worthless” in society. The federal government’s contraception and abortion mandate, however, forces the Little Sisters to provide services that destroy human life, contradicting their very mission to respect it.
Although the government does allow exemptions for church and church-type entities from the HHS Mandate for religious reasons, this accommodation does nothing for the Little Sisters. Because the government refuses to classify them as a “religious employer,” the Little Sisters are required to hire a third party to provide these objectionable services to their employees, and thus are still forced to participate in the government’s scheme. Believing that every human person has God-given worth, the Little Sisters cannot provide contraceptive, abortion, and sterilization services that go against their religious beliefs.
The Becket Fund filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Little Sisters of the Poor, seeking to uphold their right to carry out their vows of obedience in their service to the poor. The suit is a class action lawsuit, and the lead plaintiffs are the Little Sisters homes in Denver and Baltimore. The suit seeks protection not only for the Little Sisters, but for other Catholic organizations who provide health benefits consistent with their religious faith through the Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust and Christian Brothers Services. This is the 72nd lawsuit challenging the administration’s HHS Mandate filed by the Becket Fund, which also represents: Belmont Abbey College, Colorado Christian University, East Texas Baptist University, Houston Baptist University, Ave Maria University, Wheaton College, and Hobby Lobby in similar lawsuits.
In accordance with their faith, the Little Sisters uphold the unique, inviolable dignity of all life, especially those deemed the weakest in society.
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