(RNS) The Obama administration and faith-based foes of an employer mandate to provide free birth control coverage continued their legal tussle on Friday (Jan 3.), though with an odd twist: The Justice Department says an order of nuns is exempt from the mandate, while the nuns’ lawyers say they are not.

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The latest chapter in the contraception mandate began on New Year’s Eve when Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a temporary injunction against the regulation on behalf of the Little Sisters of the Poor, a U.S.-based Catholic order that operates nursing homes for the poor around the world.

The mandate was to go into effect on Jan. 1, but Sotomayor gave the administration until Friday to file a response to the sisters’ claims. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. said the nuns needed no relief because they had no problem — they are already exempt from the mandate, as is their insurance company. All they need to do is let the government know.

“With the stroke of their own pen, applicants can secure for themselves the relief they seek from this Court — an exemption from the requirements of the contraceptive-coverage provision — and the employer-applicants’ employees (and their family members) will not receive contraceptive coverage through the plan’s third-party administrator either,” Verrilli wrote.

But lawyers for the Becket Fund, a religious freedom advocacy group that is representing the nuns and other religious groups opposing the mandate, argued that the government is wrong about its own legal case.

They said that if the sisters certify that they are exempt, they will in fact be allowing their employees to receive contraception coverage through another provider. If they don’t certify that they are exempt, the nuns argue they will be subject to millions of dollars in “crippling” fines – despite the administration’s assertions that the nuns will not face penalties.

“I think they’re just trying to fool the press, frankly,” Becket Fund attorney Eric Rassbach told reporters in a conference call on Friday afternoon. The Becket Fund was to file a formal response to the Justice department argument late Friday.

Cases involving faith-based groups are working their way through the appeals courts and have not yet reached the Supreme Court. The high court has accepted cases argued by for-profit companies that say the religious beliefs of their owners require an exemption to the contraception mandate.

Those for-profit cases are likely to be decided by June, and it is unclear whether the Supreme Court will also try to rule on the claims of faith-based groups this year as well.

The Obama administration has provided an exemption from the mandate for religious groups. For religiously-affiliated entities, like faith-based universities or hospitals, the administration worked out an accommodation by which the organization does not have to provide or pay for contraception coverage. Instead a third-party administrator contacts the employee and sets up coverage and pays for it.

Some of those accommodated entities have agreed to that arrangement while others are fighting it in court.

KRE END GIBSON

25 Comments

  1. Silence DoGood

    A look at the cost structure of the ACA, for those interested. Any feedback would be much appreciated. Good luck.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7Y-5rjsaJY&list=TLMOgWGQYq8GihSLPEpPcniqnf0T6ZVT6L

  2. Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    The Obamacare promoters seem to regard the First Amendment as a roadmap for manipulating religious people into burning a pinch of incense-as in Roman pagan times– to affirm one’s spurning of Christianity.
    Their view of the First Amendment is fraudulent.
    The First Amendment is supposed to be protection from government manipulation of one’s religion and one’s conscience.

    • Duane Lamers

      Liberals dislike the Constitution as written, amended, and backgrounded by the Founders in the Federalist Papers. They refuse to say this outright, but it is clear in every item of their agenda. They’ve done well over the decades, however, in seeing that liberals swell the ranks of the judiciary.

      Should the RINO GOP be vanquished and consevatives ascend to the majority on the Hill in both chambers, the first order of business should be the beginning of the impeachment process of all those federal judges who have justified their rulings of the basis of an “expanded reading” of the plainspeech that is the Constitution. With a few heads rolled, the Congress can then look to the rest of that crowd to see whether any of them have begun to see the light and are bringing their rulings into line with the plainspeech.

      This is a war and it must be fought as such. It certainly is being fought as such by the liberals everyday.

      The second order of business, to be taken up the same day, is the reversal in the funding of government, from increases of any amount to reductions by some percentage.

    • Hmm. One of the problems I have with your argument is that you are affirming your religious beliefs at the cost of your employees’. After all, the decision to use (or not use) birth control will fall within the conscience of the employees themselves. Many religious people–including many Christians–do not share the Catholic opposition to contraception. One of the reasons I don’t share your position is because of my opposition to abortion.

      And, frankly, I’m tired of hearing claims about oppression of Christians in the US. If you think it is tough being Christian in America, try being Jewish or Muslim here. When I was Christian, I never had my place of worship vandalized. So let’s tone down the rhetoric.

      • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

        Christian and Catholic churches not vandalized???? My own parish church had its stained glass front doors kicked in. And it wasn’t an isolated incident. But was the news media interested??? Fat chance!!!
        If you want to see real violence directed against religious people then visit Egypt where Coptic Christians are regularly attacked, where ancient churches are regularly blown up, where new churches are not allowed to be built, where priests and deacons are regularly assassinated, where hundreds of thousands have to flee to save their lives.
        Where in Christian countries is such savagery regularly directed against Moslems or Buddhists???? Or is this factual savagery only rhetoric??? Or is the accusation that this is all mere rhetoric just a strategy to hide the truth .

      • Duane Lamers

        Kris Liau, one of the basic points of contention in Obamacare is the government’s decision that anyone ought to have birth control paid for by anyone other than the user. We’ve had “the pill” for a half century or close to it and some other contraceptives much longer. The users bought their contraceptives, just as they buy corn flakes, gas, and everything else.

        In short, you assume that employees are ENTITLED to this service. By the same logic, I want my employer to pay for the Netflix dvd’s that come to my house twice weekly. And, no, birth control is not healthcare.

        The quarrel is over your assumptions and those of every other socialist.

        • Contraception is a matter for sexual health.

          Health is exactly what The National Healthcare Act was designed to improve. If you don’t like it, too bad.

          I’ve seen your fascist posts all over the place. You really want to control other people.

          Paying for other people’s healthcare is not optional – we have ALL been doing it for decades. This law is designed to get more people paying for it – especially those who up to now have not been participating in health insurance.

          You really haven’t thought anything through. Nobody is forcing people to use contraception if they don’t want to – but you are already paying for it so the law lessens your individual contribution by including new payers.

          • Shaman, you’ve taken to define words as you see fit. That’s a problem conservatives have with liberals. Sexual “health” only refers to the physiological aspects of sex.

            You, Shaman, want government to control–provided it is doing the socialist thing you want it to do. Without the government mandating the taxpayers to pay for birth control, individuals can take care of this matter just fine, as they’ve always done. For lack of any substance to your argument, you do what you must: attack me.

            Yes, we pay for others’ healthcare by the very fact that we choose to pay for insurance. When we do not pay, we take on the burden of our own healthcare entirely by ourselves. What’s wrong with such decision-making? The point is WE choose, not the GOVERNMENT.

            This law- Obamacare– is demonstrating that more people are losing healthcare coverage than are gaining it.

            Your last sentence is the distillation of what is wrong with most of liberal-think: You have everything backwards, upside down, and inside out. Contraception is one’s personal choice, to be paid for by the one choosing to use it.

            Insurance–any insurance–is a matter of choice. I don’t have to insure my property if I choose not to. The costs of repair or replacement, then, are entirely up to me.

            You accuse me of being a fascist. I’ll return the favor: You are likely living off the dole or being supported by others than yourself and don’t want this to change. Ever thought of personal initiative?

            I await your response, next time dropping the ad hominems and addressing the issues. If you can.

        • Hmm. I am sorry that your church got vandalized–that kind of stuff is always wrong. Just to set the record straight, I am grateful to live in US where I can worship freely. I got more nastiness in France because of my headscarf in three weeks than I get here in three years. But–as good as this country is–we have a real problem with hate crimes against minority groups, including religious minorities.

          Anyway, back to the issue at hand. So your conscience says, no contraception, no abortion. Mine says, contraception–because statistical data show that spacing births is healthier for mother and child. And because, as a religious person, I do consider elective abortions morally problematic. But I’m not walking in the shoes of someone who feels she can’t cope because of a family situation, or because she’s two paychecks ahead of being on the street, or whatever.

          And, I gotta laugh. This is the first time–as a lifelong believer–that I’ve had someone suggest I was against religion.

          I’ve had my say and I’m done. People are hurling insults rather than debating the issue. I won’t get into a nasty tit-for-tat exchange of posts.

          • Kris, you’ve thrown more light on the topic. Thanks. I live in a community with many of Middle Eastern extraction, including two over my back fence, one Muslim from Lebanon, the other Chaldean Christian from Iraq.

            No Christian ought to complain about the hijab. Many are quite beautiful. Regardless of beauty, we’ve seen Catholic nuns in head coverings forever and haven’t raised a public ruckus about it. The “progressives” among us, however, might focus on this as their next move to ban religion from the public square.

            Keep in mind, though, that “progressive” hate is directed against the largest of Christian denominations, the Catholic Church, represented by over 60 million people in this country. No minority.

            God bless!

        • Contraception is a HEALTH issue. Not a personal choice issue.
          Hair color is a personal choice issue – not sexual health!

          A married woman who needs contraception help should be able to get that healthcare in any civilized society. It is cheap and nothing to complain about.

          As I said, you have been paying for it for decades. Obamacare makes it honest and upfront so everybody can stop getting these healthcare issues taken care of in enormously expensive Emergency rooms and Critical care clinics.

          Your lack of knowledge, comprehension of the healthcare issue and lack of imagination is your real problem.

          As for me personally, I am in the top 10% and am a self-made entrepreneur with 23 employees. People who are against The National Health Care Act are not looking at the whole picture. And religion continues to show itself as a useless contribution to American progress.

          • Duane Lamers

            Shaman, I appreciate your providing more info about yourself, and I can see that you are willing to allow ever-increasing government intervention in our lives. But consider:

            You, perhaps, are making the choice to allow your employees to have contraceptive coverage as part of their insurance. That’s fine because it is your choice. That is what the entire argument is about: choice; and government mandate isn’t a choice.

            Contraception is not a health issue. Nothing about it relates directly to health. The issue of health comes into play only when a pregnancy is involved. I agree that a woman should not have to risk her life or, as doctors might predict, post-natal health if a pregnancy would jeopardize either. This however, does not mean that government is to mandate anything. If a woman determines for whatever reason that she needs or wants contraceptives, she can purchase these—or have them provided by an insurance program that is freely offered by an employer, not one mandated by government.

            There’s no reason other than a political one why emergency rooms cannot be allowed to operate this way: You demonstrate you have insurance or come with cash or other certified methods of payment. Those who are truly poor could be issued government insurance. We as a country, judging from history, are willing to assist those who cannot provide for themselves. But there must be tighter restrictions on the definition of “poor.” Socialists in government in both parties, though, are not about to make any government program efficient. That runs counter to their desire to have everyone dependent on government.

            It isn’t my lack of knowledge of the healthcare issue, it is a question of two different philosophies regarding government. Your notion of “imagination” only means “let the government mandate.” We see how “imaginative” the rollout to Obamacare has been, and we are also seeing milliions who had insurance suddenly being deprived of it because government doesn’t like the contents of their insurance plans.

            It isn’t my imagination or knowledge, Shaman, it is your fixation on the socialist style of government that you want for this country. Admit it.

            It isn’t religion at all that is at the heart of the argument; it is the Constitution.

            Continue offering your employees anything you think appropriate, as is your right. Don’t think that your form of government for everyone is what the Constitution calls for.

        • You talk about sex as if it is OPTIONAL!

          A married couple who MUST NOT have another pregnancy for fear of life and death issues does not have an option to forgo the contraception!

          You simply are not understanding:

          1. Sex is not optional for married couples – it is a part of a mentally healthy relationship.

          2. Contraception is not OPTIONAL for those who need it – ABORTIONS ARE NOT A BETTER WAY TO DEAL WITH PREGNANCY!

          3. You are already paying for it – and you ALREADY have been paying for it for decades through clinical care facilities nationwide – but it has been more expensive because the taxpayer have been nailed with that bill ANYWAY!

          4. Nobody is mandating that you have to use contraception if you don’t want to. Nobody is mandating that your children have to use it if they don’t want to.

          If religion is so important why do you need Government to push it on everyone? Keep your religion away from me!

          • Shaman, for an entrepreneur, or so you claim to be, you demonstrate an amazing inability to focus on the central issue here: Government mandate that violates First Amendment guarantees.

            Where do you get the idea that there must be a change from the present order of providing contraception–by individuals purchasing it over the counter as they have been doing all along?

            That you choose to provide insurance for your employees and include contraception coverage is your right and privilege. I would object if the government told you that you couldn’t do this.

            Nobody is pushing religion on you, but you are in favor of the government violating First Amendment protections.

            Yes, taxpayers are nailed with emergency room and other medical facilities costs. And you want to add to the taxpayers’ bill. There is a way to provide medical coverage to the truly needy. Socialists do not want to define “the truly needy” although they have no trouble wanting to redefine marriage. They want taxpayers to fund anything that anyone desires. Couild you run your company on this principle? You know very well that you couldn’t.

            I cannot understand how a person making your claims as a businessperson can offer the arguments you make. They go against the Constitution and against the very work-social ethic that has made this country great in the past. Do you not like our constitutional form of government? If so, say so.

        • First of all, why show interest in my personal story if you are not going to believe my anyway?

          Second, the Constitutionality of the Healthcare Act has been decided by the Supreme Court of the United States. Complain to them. Pacifists have no choice but to fund the military despite their objections!

          Third – You pay for it ANYWAY. Now it will be cheaper. Done!

          Fourth – What do you think it costs for me to pay for health insurance for 23 employees for just one month? $16,300 (+change) per employee. Do you really think I want to get into a stupid debate about how I could save $2 a month if I don’t have to pay for my female CFO’s contraception? She’s already had 3 kids and can’t have another one. I told you it is a medical matter for doctors – not the unimaginative nosy little snouts of religious people. Get real!

          Finally, you just want to push people around – no sex, what else no drinking? no pool parties? No stepping on the sidewalk cracks!?

          You don’t want to be a citizen and help the rest of us solve problems of the commonwealth. And religion is at the core of denying healthcare because that is who has a problem with it.
          You are an impractical dreamer and like most religious people, you have a fascist streak.
          tsk-tsk – ALL THOSE sinners everywhere.

  3. Shaman, did you really want to suggest that religion is against social progress? The civil rights movement was born out of a religious tradition. The anti-slave movement was born out of a religious belief. America was founded out of the quest for religious freedom. Consider the vast amount of public good that is do e by faith based organizations in the area od health care, education, and social services.

    What I find most distrurbing about your argument is your materialist approach to human sexuality – you seem to reduce it to a biological necessity (like food) rather than the free, loving, and intentional act of an adult human being.

    I believe stealing is morally wrong. If I drove you to the bank knowing you were going to rob it, then I am a material accomplice. I believe artificial contraception is morally wrong. Helping you pay for it is like helping someone rob a bank. I apologize for this analogy. Does artificial contraception have the same moral weight as murder, theft, pornography? These are all good questions but the underlying principle of conscience is clear – can the government force me to violate my own conscience?

    • You think sex is not necessary part of a married person’s life? Seriously?
      Are you married? Do you know anyone who is married?
      You must be joking.

      And anyway…Who are you to say it isn’t?

    • YES. The government has the right to throw you in jail if you do not pay your federal income tax.

      Let’s say you object to nuclear weapons because you are a pacifist.
      So you attempt to use the First Amendment as a defense
      and thereby refuse to pay your federal income tax.
      You will go to jail. Simple as that.

      The Supreme Court already paid the price of examining all of this. It is a settled issue. The Healthcare Act (Obamacare) is the law of the land. And it isn’t such a bad law. It will be improved.

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