In response to the Department of Justice filing its official response to Justice Sotomayor’s temporary halt to the Department of Health and Human Services abortion-drug, contraception, sterilization mandate as it pertains to the Little Sisters of the Poor, Becket Fund lawyer Mark Rienzi, who is representing the Sisters (and is no stranger to NRO readers), says in a statement:
“Unfortunately, the federal government has started the new year the same way that it ended the old one: trying to bully nuns into violating their religious beliefs.
“The government demands that the Little Sisters of the Poor sign a permission slip for abortion drugs and contraceptives, or pay of millions in fines. The Sisters believe that doing that violates their faith, and that they shouldn’t be forced to divert funds from the elderly poor they serve to the IRS.
“The government now asks the Supreme Court to believe that the very thing it is forcing the nuns to do—signing the permission slip—is a meaningless act. But why on earth would the government be fighting the Little Sisters all the way to the Supreme Court if it did not think its own form had any effect? The government’s brief offers no explanation for its surprising insistence on making the Little Sisters sign a form the government now says is meaningless.
“And now the government is asking the Supreme Court to look the other way while it coerces the Little Sisters. If the administration believed its contraceptive mandate was valid, it would join the Little Sisters’ request for Supreme Court review because the government has lost almost all of the cases in the lower courts. Instead, its brief today is devoted to trying to keep the Court out of the issue, which would leave hundreds of religious organizations subject to massive fines for following their religion.
“All of this is sad and unnecessary. Our federal government is massive and powerful. It can obviously find ways to distribute contraceptives and abortion pills without forcing nuns to be involved.”
One thing that has sure been so glaringly consistent since this HHS mandate controversy began — even beyond the important religious-freedom issue — is how completely unnecessary it is.