[Pepsi and ExxonMobil are exempt, but not the Little Sisters of the Poor. Sign Ze Papers, Sisters!]
by Ken Klukowski, March 24
The Obama administration is claiming it has the unprecedented power to compel churches to provide abortion-related products and services.
Referring to Obamacare’s abortion-pill mandate during arguments in the Little Sisters of the Poor case at the U.S. Supreme Court, Chief Justice John Roberts asked U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, “Could you apply the same requirements you apply to the Little Sisters to the church entity itself?”
“I think we could, Your Honor, yes,” Verrilli answered.
Obamacare includes an administrative regulation that some call the “abortion-pill mandate.” It says employers who offer healthcare to their employees must cover abortion-related products and services including contraceptives and sterilization procedures.
Those who refuse are subject to a crushing penalty of $100 per employee, per day. For the nuns who make up the Little Sisters of the Poor, this would mean $70 million per year in government penalties.
In its 2014 Hobby Lobby case, the Supreme Court held that for businesses owned by people of faith who religiously object to abortion, the abortion-pill mandate violates those people’s rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). (If the Court had not decided the case on RFRA grounds, the plaintiffs also argued that the mandate violates their First Amendment religious-liberty rights.)
Knowing it faced an uphill battle, the Obama administration exempted churches. It also issued an “accommodation” for religious nonprofit groups, under which a group would certify its religious objection, and provide information regarding its insurance company. Then the government would transfer the legal obligation to pay for abortion-related matters from the religious group to the insurer.
But evangelical and Catholic ministries, colleges, universities, and other groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor, as well as Orthodox Jewish, Muslim, Native American, and Mormon groups, still objected, because filling out a form that imposes on someone else an obligation to pay for abortions would still make those faith-based organizations complicit in wrongful acts that violate their religious faith.
In seven consolidated cases—officially known together as Zubik v. Burwell, but likely to be called Little Sisters of the Poor in the history books—the justices are deciding whether this “accommodation” still violates RFRA. A federal law or regulation violates RFRA when the government substantially burdens a person’s religion, and that burden is not the least restrictive means to achieve a compelling public interest.
[More at the link]
Ken Klukowski is legal editor for Breitbart News.