Mother Loraine Maguire, the Mother Provincial for the Little Sisters of the Poor who will appear before the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, March 22, 2016, took to the pages of USA Today on Tuesday to lay out why our most sacred religious liberties must be upheld.
Obamacare attacks religious liberty: Little Sisters Mother Provincial
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By Loraine Maguire
When I first answered God’s call to join the Little Sisters of the Poor and vow myself to Him and to the care of the elderly, I never dreamed of the happiness I would experience in serving, living with and caring for the aging poor until God calls them to Himself. I also never thought one day, I would be walking up the white marble steps of the Supreme Court to attend a legal proceeding in which the high court will decide whether the government can force my order to help offer health care services that violate my Catholic faith and that are already available through existing government exchanges.
For the past two years, since the time we felt we had no choice but to engage in this legal process, I have been saddened to see some of the anger and misinformation generated about our case. One of the most misunderstood aspects has arisen from early statements made by the government about how all it was asking was that we sign a form saying we had a religious objection to its mandated services so it could provide these services independent of our health care plan.
This is untrue. The government already knows we object. In fact, this is not our first appeal for protection from the court. In December 2013, we first asked to be protected from the fines that would accrue against us unless we provided the objectionable services. At the time, Justice Sonia Sotomayor stopped the fines and the government received a letter from us stating our objection. Even before then, since the government announced it had put this regulation into effect, we registered our objection in writing, citing our concerns.
Why would the government need us to provide these services? Everyone knows the government can provide free services to anyone it wishes without our signing a form. It has always been clear to us that rather than being an “opt out,” the form is an opt-in. It gives the government permission to use our plan to deliver services such as ella, the week-after pill. The form even says our signature will legally alter our contract with our insurance provider.
One of the most puzzling aspects of the case is that the government, at the same time it has been trying to force us to sign this form and provide these services, has exempted close to 100 million Americans from having to comply with this mandate. It has exempted its own military family plan, its own insurance for the disabled as well as large private corporations such as Pepsi. All these exemptions were issued for convenience or commercial reasons, but when we have asked to be exempted for religious reasons, we have been denied the same privilege.
As I look around the home where I live in Baltimore, I see those who are truly affected by this unnecessary legal proceeding: the elderly poor. Most of the people who live in my residence have nowhere else to go. The 13,000 elderly we take care of around the world come to us in search of a home and of good medical care. They seek solace and companionship when they have none. And we gladly commit to live with them until they complete their earthly journey. We tell them that once they come to our home, we belong to them and they belong to us because we are family.
My heart is filled with grief at the worry and suffering this has caused our elderly residents. I tell them that whatever happens, God will take care of all of us as He has since the founding of our order 175 years ago. As I walk up the Supreme Court steps on this coming Holy Wednesday, I will be reflecting on the words our foundress, St. Jeanne Jugan: “God will help us: the work is His.” I will also be praying for our elderly residents. Finally, I will be praying that our laws continue to protect religious liberty, not only for my order but for all Americans.
Mother Loraine Maguire is the Mother Provincial for the Little Sisters of the Poor. The Little Sisters are represented in court by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.
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.”
Victory at the U.S. Supreme Court. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act applies to closely held corporations. Hobby Lobby is not required to provide contraception coverage.
Catholic Advocate was one of the early groups raising concerns about the religious liberty and abortion funding in the health care law signed by President Obama. Today’s ruling at the Supreme Court is a positive step in protecting our First Amendment liberties.
First, the Supreme Court just agreed to hear two cases filed over the Obama administration’s abortifacient mandate. As you know, Obamacare forces all health insurance plans to pay for sterilization, contraceptives, and yes, abortion drugs.
Bottom line: this major case impacts religious liberties and people of faith everywhere so Catholic Advocate will remain vigilant.
Second is another Obama move that can only be characterized as a slap in the face to the Catholic church and Catholics everywhere. Right now the Obama administration is actually taking formal steps to close down the official Embassy to the Holy See!
You read that correctly.
His plan? To throw Catholics a few crumbs with a some office space at the Embassy to Italy. It’s outrageous … and unacceptable. Rest assured Catholic Advocate is not sitting on the sidelines for this one either.
And finally, Pope Francis released his new apostolic exhortation out today entitled “Evangelii Gaudium.” It reads:
“The Synod Fathers spoke of the importance of respect for religious freedom, viewed as a fundamental human right. This includes “the freedom to choose the religion which one judges to be true and to manifest one’s beliefs in public”. A healthy pluralism, one which genuinely respects differences and values them as such, does not entail privatizing religions in an attempt to reduce them to the quiet obscurity of the individual’s conscience or to relegate them to the enclosed precincts of churches, synagogues or mosques. This would represent, in effect, a new form of discrimination and authoritarianism.”
There’s a lot going on. We will keep you informed as things develop.
By electing President Obama in 2008, we in turn got two hyper-liberal Supreme Court Justices—Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor—and a host of new laws that violate the very core of our beliefs. And by re-electing Obama in 2012, America exacerbated the situation.
As a direct result of Obama’s successful appointments to the highest court, same-sex marriage may soon be the law of the land. We cannot sit back and watch Obama and his radical allies trample our beliefs. We must defend our faith and do everything in our power to stop this assault on religion in America. The reality is there isn’t much we can do to influence the Supreme Court’s rulings on same-sex marriage.
They say it’s not over until the fat lady sings.The team here at Catholic Advocate will not stop fighting for traditional marriage, or any of our core beliefs.