Administration Rebuts Nuns in Obamacare Case

In a largely symbolic battle over contraceptive coverage at the Supreme Court, the administration argues the nuns have no basis to claim their religious liberty is being infringed by Obamacare

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George Bridges / AP

Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor is sworn in on Capitol Hill in Washington during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 13, 2009

The Obama administration filed a response at the Supreme Court on Friday morning in an attempt to unblock the implementation of Obamacare for a group of religious charities, arguing that the nuns at the heart of matter have no legal or factual basis for their objections to the health care law’s rule requiring many insurers to cover the cost of contraceptives.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor granted the emergency injunction on New Year’s Eve in response to the nuns’ assertion that they were being forced to choose between violating their religious beliefs and paying massive fines. Sotomayor will now consider the arguments in the case and decide whether to lift the ban or leave it in place, and whether the Supreme Court should hear the case before lower courts issue a judgment.

The battle between the Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged and the Obama administration is largely symbolic. Even if the Supreme Court were to take the case and ultimately rule in favor of the nuns, very little would change in the health care law’s rollout — at most, it would affect the specific rule regarding coverage of contraceptives for a small group of people working for these charities and potentially some private businesses, several of which have their own objections to birth control mandates before the court.

Politically, however, the action at the Supreme Court unfolds on the brightly-lit stage of Obamacare implementation and against the backdrop of five years of battles between Republicans and Democrats over the health care law. In that drama, even the temporary stay gives new life to Republican assertions that the law tramples on religious freedom and forces the White House once again to defend the law before the public.

The very narrow question at the heart of the Little Sisters case is whether the act of signing and submitting a form certifying that the nuns’ beliefs prevent them from complying with Obamacare’s contraception mandate would in itself violate their religious beliefs. The nuns argued in their emergency appeal on New Year’s Eve that signing the document would open the door for others to provide contraceptive coverage in their place.

The administration says just because it might, doesn’t mean it would. The government wrote in its filing Friday morning that the insurers to whom the nuns would submit their certification have already said they will not provide contraceptive coverage because they are exempt from the mandate. “Concern that [the nuns] are ‘authorizing others’ to provide coverage lacks any foundation in the facts or the law,” the administration wrote in its response.

The most likely outcome of the current exchange at the court is that Sotomayor will send the case back down to the Tenth Circuit to be decided there. Sotomayor could leave the injunction in place for the nuns, or lift it, at her discretion, and the Supreme Court could reconsider whether to take the case and rule on it later. The nuns have asked that if she lifts the injunction that the Supreme Court hear the case before the lower court rules, something the court rarely does.

84 comments
FrankProvasek
FrankProvasek

So to provide a written statement  to employees that they are NOT providing birth control is STILL a violation of their religious freedom -- because the women employees will be alerted that  they have to arrange for separate coverage?   And in any case, the Church owned Christian Brothers insurance company  is exempt from offering contraception.  So the "Obama forcing nuns to pay for birth control" story is A LIE.  The issue is that the nuns refuse to provide a written statement to employees that they are not providing contraception coverage for religious reasons.

The lawsuit, basically "we got our way, we just don't want to put it in writing" is funded and staffed by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. Who might they be?  Founder Kevin J. "Seamus" Hasson, Esq. worked for the Reagan Justice Department under Samuel Alito, and worked with Catholic University -- on orders from Cardinal Ratzinger -- to get rid of Father Charles Curran - despite his full tenure status.  The major money behind Becket Fund comes from the Bradley Foundation (Harry Bradley and  Fred Koch (yes - father to THOSE brothers) started the John Birch Society) and from Foster Friess ("Back in my days, they used Bayer Aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees.")  Friess blew $2 million supporting Santorum in 2012, who views contraception as " not okay because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.

And of course, all these foundations and people want to destroy Obama's ACA and the man himself.

Connect the dots  -- and follow the money  ---  and it makes sense.

LisaBeaupre
LisaBeaupre

i work for the catholic church and am on the battlefield of this debate. i do not work for the catholic church because of my religion..i work for a paycheck and the same benefits every other person who doesnt work for the church is alotted. this includes health care. and being a female i have the same rights as another worker does regardless who i work for. just because my employer doesnt believe what i do or not do is right or wrong does not give them the right to take away my healthcare. who are they to impose their religion on me? wheres my religious freedom? they didnt have a religious status on the application so how is that they can turn it around on me now? im pretty sure they hired me for my credentials not my religious beliefs. i actually need birth control..not that it makes a difference but if i dont use it i could get cancer when i am older..so on top of the premium i pay for my insurance i have to pay for my prescriptions? outrageous! the nuns are by no means as holy as they proclaim themselves to be..trust ive seen it with my own two eyes and the hypocracy they continue to spit disgusts me. if i had it my way theres no way theyd be non profit because the nuns i work for are all profit..hospitals and schools..all in their pocket. they have people so manipulated into thinking theyre impoverished theyre getting million dollar donations daily. and what do they do wit it? hire lawyers to get into a debate just to hear themselves talk. how about opening a real non profit like a shelter or a soup kitchen? the new pope needs to come to america and set these americans nuns straight because they are so far from what theyre supposed to be.

jmac
jmac

My Texas Senator John Cornyn:  “In a sign that the White House will stop at nothing to save its unpopular and unworkable health care law, now they’re working to silence a group of nuns in Colorado . . . "


The National Review has a long article on this issue and not once do they mention that all the nuns have to do is sign a form invoking their legal rights.   Nobody is trying to silence a nun.  Why does the right-wing assume everyone is as ignorant as their base?   

Neuroman
Neuroman

Classic progressive "tolerance." Preach respect for other religions and cultures while attacking and marginalizing Christians and their beliefs. Just another of countless examples of Obama's polarization of our Nation.

j45ashton
j45ashton

Amendment I: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;


The issue doesn't seem to be clear.  If the nuns have the option not to comply & they can offer policies without birth control coverage, the exercise of religion for them is not prohibited.  The essence of their objection is not their choosing but the fact that the law generally mandates birth control coverage and makes coverage affordable for everybody.  Upholding the position of these nuns would be like saying strict Catholic doctrine should be the law of the land.  It would be like the government establishing a religion de facto,  There's no way this could stand.

BorisIII
BorisIII

Businesses already have full control of their employees after work hours.  Can't smoke, can't get drunk in public, etc.  They could demand you have to go to a certain church or watch a certain football game if they wanted to.  Only option is to work some where else.

richard.draucker
richard.draucker

Just because the current insurance companies say they won't do it, doesn't mean they 1) won't change their minds in the future; 2) another party may step in to provide that same coverage.   That signature is the only thing standing in the way of that happening.  And that means Obama's claim is false (like most of what he says about DemocratCare). 



LDGracy
LDGracy

The real issue is religious freedom. The constitution says that Congress shall make no law limiting the right to worship. The administration says that they can and without limit. They will interpret what religious issues are rather than leave leave it to the individual.

Because they believe that having contraceptives and abortions paid for (payment not a right in the constitution) trumps your personal religios belief (a specific right under the constitution). Believing otherwise will cost you lots of money. The Feds state that as long as the nuns are not paying for the service, just administering it, their beliefs are not violated. They have decided what the nuns commitment to God is. You may not agree with their belief, but that's what their religious vows mean to them. The Feds say otherwise.

If this is upheld, religious freedom will exist only by the definition decided by a Federal official. If you believe and the Feds decide something else is the right way, you had better have a lot of money for the "taxes" if you want to stay with your beliefs.

sacredh
sacredh

Aren't nuns supposed to be married to God? They can't count on Him shooting blanks forever.

jmac
jmac

"While the Catholic institutions have compared filling out the form to Quakers being forced to join the military, Jewish prisoners being forced to eat pork or Seventh-Day Adventists being forced to work on Saturdays, the government said those were all flawed analogies"


Really, Catholic church that just got a priest out of jail on a technicality for covering-up sexual abuse?   (fortunately, he can still be tried in civil court).   Really?     A signature for exemption is such a burden when you fall in the gray area?     

Hollywooddeed
Hollywooddeed

Sure, a bunch of nuns should be the arbiter of birth control.  Yeah, that's the ticket.

jmac
jmac

The Catholic Church could settle this issue in one second.   They could make the Nuns group equal to the Brothers group that also brought the lawsuit - and who do not have to sign because they're affiliated with the Church.   Just give the Nuns equal status.


That's not going to happen until women make the big bucks and give them to the church.   Some wealthy male donor helping to restore a Catholic church has already threatened to remove his help unless the new pope tones down his rhetoric on inequality and the poor.  Until women can control the church with their money and power they will always be second class to this church, whether it's to use contraceptives behind the churches back or to have Nuns have equal status.


MikeBuckingham
MikeBuckingham

Now, now; those nuns were hoping to be burned at the stake for their faith, and all they got was bureaucracy-what a disappointment!

grassroot
grassroot

It's  Obmer and the  Left against  Christianity,  as usual  ,,

jmac
jmac

"Being required to inform the government that you are invoking your legal rights isn’t a substantial burden. It’s barely a burden at all."   (from the very Catholic Andrew Sullivan blog)


iotata
iotata

Ok, I still don't understand why the contraception are part of insurance. Insurance by definition is hedging against something that may happen but hoping will not. It's purpose is for events that do not happen to everyone but for those unfortunate enough that get ill to have their bills payed by the rest of the people who get insured. The contraception is a commodity. It's something that happens to everyone ( who does family planning). Why not everyone pay for their own contraception method. If this is part of insurance then there is a middle men (operational cost) which means more expensive. Besides 30 condoms a month cost not more than $30. If the customer pays with will be $30. If it's part of the insurance will be at least $37.5 assuming 25% overhead. And for every purchase there will be a copay? Again I still don't understand why the fuss. And I am a liberal.

RB1
RB1

If a religious group say's they shouldn't have to help pay for birth control in the healthcare packages for their employees because of their beliefs (not their employees), then my religion that doesn't believe in medicine should be also exempt from having to pay for any of the costs for healthcare, for my employees.  Since I'm the employer my rights are superior to the rights of my employees. So I'm entitled to more human rights since I have more money, right!

stevek77536
stevek77536

I do not believe the Catholic Church has a valid moral argument against contraception.  (The abortion question is much different, and only indirectly related.)  Per Wikipedia, "[About 1930] most Protestant groups came to accept the use of modern contraceptives as a matter of Biblically allowable freedom of conscience."  If the argument is economic, I also disagree.  A woman who does not want to bear a child but gets pregnant faces a serious situation, not only economically but also morally and physically.  Thus, the relative low price of contraception is a valid health insurance inclusion, similar to other preventive measures.  The decision to use contraceptives should be up to the individual, and not to the employer or religious organization.

jmac
jmac

"The nuns argued in their emergency appeal on New Year’s Eve that signing the document would open the door for others to provide contraceptive coverage in their place."


The nuns are being silly.  They take care of 69 elderly who don't use contraceptives.   If a signature makes them squeamish that Jesus might be upset, they have a whole lot more to worry about than a signature.    


How about the next group   in the grey zone not wanting to sign because of a Muslim belief?  Or Seventh Day Advent belief?  That middle area was put in there on purpose.   If it does make it to the Supreme Court, I can't wait to hear the arguments over a signature.    

cytime
cytime

@LisaBeaupre Sorry, your story is not convincing. More creative writing classes are in order. 

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@jmacThey do not want to sign period. They do not want to have anything to do with it since contraceptives is a mortal sin to them period. With your high level of intelligence you should know it by now. Give them a break. You have more important things to do for sure. Like looking out from your basement and see if it is raining outside, or your mom needs the dishes done.

aztecian
aztecian

@Neuromanwhat do you mean?  christians have been polarizing the world for the last 1000 years.  it is about leveling the playing field. 

jason024
jason024

@NeuromanWrong...if this is overturned EVERY tax code and exemption for religious institutions becomes invalid because the only way to enforce/vet each exemption is through a unbiased application.  It is NOT government telling Christians what to do if they can apply for an exemption.


What would be wrong is if the institutions were forced to comply and being unable to opt out.

jmac
jmac

@Neuroman Having to sign a waver invoking your rights when you fall into a gray area is not disrespecting any religion or any group who happens to fall within that area.   Obviously this discussion has now been linked to a religious group, but that's not going to change the bottom line - and that's that Obama is fighting for poor women to have access to contraceptions.   He's a saint.   It doesn't take a God to figure that one out.  

stevek77536
stevek77536

@j45ashton Yes.  When people object to Christians atempting to force their ideology on others, too many Christians consider it "persecution".  Another example is their insistence on prayer at non-religious civic meetings.  Their sense of entitlement is offensive.

jmac
jmac

@richard.draucker It's not just the nun's group in this particular case that falls in the grey area.  It's other groups as well.  The bottom line is Obama is trying to provide contraceptives to the poor and the Catholic church is doing everything it can to make sure the poor  stay in their status quo.


Someone's a saint in this instance, and God just might be able to figure out who's the saint.  

jmac
jmac

@LDGracy  Religious freedom is being denied because the nun's group falls into a subset that means they have to sign a paper to inform the government that they are invoking their legal rights?   Really?   You really believe that?  


Whether the Catholic church likes it or not, in the United States they are United State's citizens.   They can work to keep the poor poor as they take money from the rich (who use birth control and get abortions) but they are still U.S. citizens.  

jmac
jmac

@grassroot    It's the  Nuns standing up for equal status!  The Brothers don't have to sign as they are affiliated with the church.   Why should the Nuns be a subset behind the Brothers?  


Maybe this is about the Nuns actually wanting to be treated like equal member of the Church that loves to hold them down.   Maybe they're sick and tired of being second class citizens in a religion that uses and abuses them.   


Maybe this group can join Nuns on the Bus.   Maybe they can pick up pitchforks and start fighting for the lives of women and what Jesus taught instead of being trod on by their 'Brothers'.  

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@jmacOf all so called "Catholics" you chose Andrew Sullivan. Keep going Jmac, you are just doing fine.

RB1
RB1

@iotata Well I think you need to envision this issue with a wider view. Insurance isn't just about protection from what happens after the illness occurs. Everyone sooner or later have events that happen in their lives. Maybe I get prostate cancer and your father gets TB, and your aunt gets MS, but were all mortal and vulnerable to health problems. So healthcare in the past fifth years has taken a huge leap forward in extending life through science and most importantly through "Preventive Health Care." 

Now birth control isn't just condoms. Prescription medicines for woman aren't just for controlling ovulation, it is also for controlling menstruel bleeding and a variety of other health concerns that women experience. The costs for this medicine can far exceed condom costs, but it addressed much more than just birth control.

You ask "who does family planning?", well most of the religions out there are very big on family planning, but without any manmade solutions! They don't seem to have to much trouble with countless other manmade solutions, just in family planning. The issue here isn't just contraception, we could use the same argument for virtually every aspect of preventative healthcare or for that matter any form of healthcare costs.

RB1
RB1

This kind of all goes back to Romney's statement about "the 47% of America that think they have Entitlements!"  What he was reinforcing in the belief systems of the wealthy and empowered was that these little people actually have begun to think that they have any entitlements! You see only the rich and powerful have entitlements!  This is the entire issue in a nut shell regardless if its healthcare, employment or any other aspect of this society.

jmac
jmac

@stevek77536 I had a Catholic gynecologists who treated many Hispanic women and his solution was easy - he offered them hysterectomies when they'd reached the number of children they wanted.  


They honestly think God is deaf, dumb and blind.  It reminded me of my Church of Christ neighbor in Virginia who closed her blinds to play cards.  


Religion should have no place in a woman's health care decisions, especially from hypocrites that let priests seduce children and turn a blind eye.   This case is beyond ridiculous - over a signature.   Which isn't to say the Supreme Court won't take it - they brought back Citizen's United over book banning - and then made a disastrous ruling. 

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@jmac
Right, a saint. San Barracko. His image should be in every morning after pill, condoms should bear his heavenly image. That is what I like in you , Jmac, always full of revolutionary ideas.
 

jmac
jmac

@stevek77536 @j45ashton Pat Robertson calls it "political correctness."  He hates pc.  He thinks it's the number one problem in America today.     Of course he does, his church doesn't want to practice it as they throw stones at 'sinners'.   

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@jmac@richard.drauckerHow can it be more clearer than this. The nuns just do not want to deal with the condoms, the pills and other contraceptives that you force on them ? Contraceptives are anathema to Catholic nuns and priests. ANATHEMA. Would you be this brave if a catering company forces Muslim workers to include pork in their deliveries as well as alcohol ?

TerryClifton02
TerryClifton02

@jmac@richard.draucker 

You're a fanatic for thinking a lying politician is a saint.Your "saint" has murdered innocent men, women, and children all over the Middle East and beyond with his drone strikes.

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@jmac@LDGracyTell that to the Muslim girl who wants to wear hijab in her work in Disneyland. Tell that to the Somali taxi drivers who refused to accept fares with whiskey in gift wrappings during Christmas seasons.

jmac
jmac

@ReneDemonteverde @jmac I lied.  I'm going to answer you again.  I can see your concern over a thinking Catholic.  His body and soul are Catholic, but the man has a brain and can use it.  

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@jmac@stevek77536Proof Jmac, proof. Words are cheap. Dont be like Obama, period.
You should have worn a wire. Your hostility towards Catholics in particular and Christianity in general is just well appalling.

stevek77536
stevek77536

@jmac I grew up in the Catholic Church, including altar boy, Catholic high school, etc.  I "fell away" in high school and attended a non-religious college.   I have since come to view the institution as very hypocritical, a medieval organization caught in a modern world.   Certainly, there are admirable Catholic individuals, but the organization has very little credibility.  


When my Catholic wife and I got married, the (progressive) priest asked (as he had to, per the dogma) if we would have children.  We said probably not.  He said, "But there's a chance, right?"  We said, "Well ..." He said, "Good enough, I can marry you."  And he did.  We didn't.

jmac
jmac

@ReneDemonteverde @jmac @richard.draucker Rene, I'm going to answer you one last time and then ignore your ignorance.  


NO ONE IS MAKING NUNS GIVE OUT CONTRACEPTIVES.   CAn you not for once just google the issue and read about it?  It's an issue with the nuns trapped in a loophole because they don't want to sign for their rights,  but in no circumstances do they have to give out birth control.  You make conservatives look bad when you come on and have no clue what the issue is about.  You are the epitome of the current Republican party - the party I used to vote for.  You don't have to be ignorant on these issue just because you hate Obama.  Read about it.  

jmac
jmac

@TerryClifton02 He's saved thousands of lives by not sending in troops yet using drones to get the terrorists.  If you think it's wrong, you should move to Yemen, where they are appreciative of the US helping them, yet not invading.   You could push for an invasion and kill many instead of a few innocent, or push to not help at all.   Your have ever right to fill that way, but that wouldn't make you a saint.   


This discussion isn't about Obama, it's about access to the poor for contraceptives.   But if you want to put Obama next to the Catholic church on the issue of the poor, the latter falls flat in their hypocrisy.  The new pope gets it, but his wealthy donors don't as they threaten to withhold funds unless he shuts up about inequality.   The church can change.  Cults ruled by a few at the top always change.  

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@jmac@ReneDemonteverdeI know he has a brain. Everybody have a brain. His body and soul are Catholic What crap. You cannot be Catholic if you dont believe in its teachings. If you cannot abide by its tenet get the hell out and scream at it at your heart`s content. Andy just want to have his/her cake and eat it too. He/She wants the Church to conform to what he/she wants. Well good luck on that.

jmac
jmac

@stevek77536 @jmac I attended a Catholic wedding in Nebraska (the young couple's baby was also in attendance) and there was a lecture during the sermon on the evils of the Clinton administration.   At a wedding!  In a church.  It seemed totally out of place.