On March 22, 2016, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) spoke on the House floor in support of the Little Sisters of the Poor, the day before the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments in their fight against the Affordable Care Act’s HHS mandate through which the U.S. Government is forcing them to violate their religious beliefs.
Below are Speaker Ryan’s full remarks as delivered:
“Tomorrow the Supreme Court will hear arguments in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwell. And today, I stand in support of the Little Sisters.
“Mr. Speaker, this is an order of Catholic nuns who serve the elderly poor in 31 countries. We talk a lot about public service up here. Well, these are the people who live it. They are the definition of public service.
“In fact, I had the honor of hosting two of the sisters at the State of the Union address this January. And I was amazed to hear of all the good work that they do. So the last thing the federal government should do is make their jobs harder. But that, unfortunately, is exactly what this administration is doing.
“Under the health-care law, the Department of Health and Human Services is insisting on a regulation that requires the sisters to offer benefits that violate their religious beliefs. The administration claims to have offered them an ‘accommodation.’ But it is just a fig leaf. So this is the choice that they are facing: Either violate your faith or pay up to $70 million a year in fines.
“Mr. Speaker, there is no good reason for any of this. A full one third of the American people are exempt from this regulation. So why insist that the sisters—of all people—follow it? There are other ways to protect people’s health—that do not violate people’s faith.
“And Mr. Speaker, it is clear to anyone with eyes to see that this regulation is a violation of theReligious Freedom Restoration Act. A broad, bipartisan majority in Congress voted for that law. And what Congress said was this: The burden is not on your faith to obey government mandates. The burden is on the government to respect your faith.
“Mr. Speaker, that is the very meaning of religious liberty. That is one of our founding principles. That is why we should do everything we can to let people live out their faith. That is why many colleagues of mine and I have joined an amicus brief asking the Court to grant the sisters the relief that they deserve.
“And that is why I am here today—to stand in defense of the sisters, to stand in defense of the law, and to stand in defense of religious liberty. Thank you.”