Would Thomas Jefferson have anything to say about Americans suing the government in order to defend their first amendment rights? Kathryn Hickok, of the Cascade Policy Institute in Portland, Ore., thinks so. She wondered what Jefferson may have said to the Little Sisters of the Poor’s about their ongoing legal battle with the Obama Administration. In 2012, the Department of Health and Human Services required employers to cover contraceptives and abortifacients or pay costly fines. Although this mandate does have exemptions for some, that does not include the Little Sisters of the Poor. For more background, see PowerBlog articles on both the HHS Mandate and the Little Sisters’ lawsuit.
In 1804, a nun from New Orleans was concerned that, after the Louisiana purchase, the government may interfere with her religious community’s ministries or might even seize their property. Jefferson assured her:
I have received, holy sisters, the letter you have written me wherein you express anxiety for the property vested in your institution….The principles of the constitution and government of the United States are a guarantee to you that it will be preserved to you, sacred and inviolate, and that your institution will be permitted to govern itself according to its own voluntary rules, without interference from the civil authority.