Acton Institute Powerblog

Little Sisters of the Poor to the Obama Administration: Don’t Force Us to Violate Our Conscience

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littlesisters2The Little Sisters of the Poor, an international congregation of Catholic women religious who serve the elderly poor in over 30 countries around the world, have been given a difficult choice: violate your conscience or pay $70 million a year in fines.

For the past few years the Obama administration has been attempting to force the Little Sisters — and other nonprofit religious organizations — to help provide their employees with free access to abortion-inducing drugs, sterilizations, and contraceptives. But on Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments to determine whether the nuns will be given the right to continue with their ministry caring for the elderly poor and providing health benefits to their employees without having to violate their consciences.

In an op-ed for the New York Times, Constance Veit,  director of vocations for the Little Sisters of the Poor, explains why the requirement is a violation of their conscience:

[S]ome have mistakenly claimed that we can just sign a piece of paper and receive an exemption. Indeed, Health and Human Services claims it “accommodated” our religious beliefs and offered us an “opt-out.”

I wish that were true. In fact, the government has candidly told the Supreme Court that we “don’t get an exemption” at all. Rather, what Health and Human Services is calling an “opt-out” is really an “opt-in” — a permission slip where we authorize the use of our religious health plan to offer services that violate our beliefs and waive our protections under federal civil rights laws. That’s why they need our signature.

The government says this isn’t a problem because it will pay for the services that violate our religious beliefs. But for us this is not a money question; it is a moral question about what we offer in our plan. It’s similar to high schools that have removed soda machines from their property because they don’t think soda is good for children. It doesn’t matter that the soda companies will pay for the machines. And the school’s decision doesn’t prevent children from getting soda elsewhere. The school simply doesn’t want to be responsible for providing something it believes is bad for its students. It is the same with us.

Read more . . .

Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).


  • Sam Osborne

    The freedom the Little Sisters of the Poor are attempting to trifle with belongs to the individuals that sisters would inflict their will on and not to the sisters.

    The sisters present themselves willing to inhibit others from exercising their own freedom of conscience in guise of the sisters having a freedom on Earth to do so in great and holy service to the God they contend to have faith in. For the sisters to exercise their own freedom on their own they only need to resign from piecemeal dangling benefits to another in accord with their supposed freedom of conscience and retire to a chapel and pray the rosary round and round the clock all day.

    The sisters echoes the disregard suffered by the oppressed down on de old plantation where the master took good care of his slaves to his satisfaction, and to such an extent that they were expected to shuffle their feet in the dust and with heads bowed be so thankful they were not off somewhere else singing, “Oh, darkeys, how my heart grows weary, Far from de old folks at home!”

    Best start caring about a fellow sinner that is already stumbling along the path of life in place of anointing an incipient form that because of potential is the purest of pure—overlooking a bit of original sin that will after the fact of delivery be washed away in Baptism.

    • KenTre

      Little Sisters of the Poor as antebellum plantation owners…thanks for the laugh.