Not So Happy New Year

by Mark L. Rienzi

Here is a holiday tale to chill the soul.

The Little Sisters of the Poor are an order of Catholic nuns dedicated to caring for the elderly poor.  They do this in about 30 homes across the country, where they take in the neediest members of our society, and care for them with compassion, love, and dignity until they die.  

Despite their obvious religious nature, the Obama administration refuses to treat the Little Sisters as “religious employers” under its contraceptive mandate.  The IRS will therefore begin fining the Sisters tomorrow, unless and until the Sisters help facilitate government programs to distribute abortion-inducing drugs and devices.  The fines will be massive, and amount to millions of dollars a year taken from the elderly poor and pocketed by the federal government.  

Unfortunately, late today the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals denied the Little Sisters relief from the Mandate—it said they should just sign and deliver the forms that their religion tells them not to sign.  Now, as 2013 winds to a close, the Little Sisters will be filing an emergency application to Justice Sotomayor, seeking protection from IRS fines that will otherwise start accruing in a few hours.  

The holidays are a time of love, hope, and charity—the values the Little Sisters exemplify every day as they care for the old and the dying.  It is a terrible shame that the Sisters have been forced to spend part of their Christmas praying for emergency relief against their own government, and must now await the start of 2014 with fear of IRS fines.

Is this really what we want from our government, at the holidays or any other time?

— Mark L. Rienzi is senior counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty (which has filed four lawsuits against the mandate) and professor of constitutional law at the Catholic University of America. `

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