The 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.