Wednesday, October 14, 2015

What really happened when Pope Francis unexpectedly visited the Little Sisters

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             A Message from the Executive Director
Wednesday, October 14, 2015
Dear Friends,
When defenders of the Government’s scheme say that the Little Sisters are just obstinately objecting to a “piece of paper,” they’re either ignorant or lying. As one judge explained, “the form matters and plays a role in this scheme. After all, if the form were meaningless, why would the Government require it?”
It’s as simple as this: the Sisters have a health insurance plan that they built and maintain to provide conscience-compliant health care for their employees. The Government wants to hijack that plan to distribute drugs that the Sisters find inherently immoral.
It does not take a theologian or a lawyer to understand why this order of Catholic nuns believes participating in this scheme would make them complicit in wrongdoing.
What is inexplicable, though, is why the Government did not create some other way to distribute these drugs while it was creating the insurance exchanges. Or why the Government insists on imposing this scheme on the Sisters while exempting millions of Americans who have no moral objection to it.
“Who is exempt?” you may ask. All churches are exempt (and any organization controlled by a church.) Churches don’t have to do anything. They don’t have to    cover contraception. They don’t have to make a deal with their insurer. They don’t have to notify the Government. They don’t have to sign any piece of paper. They’re just completely exempt. End of story.
Why are the Sisters not exempt? Because the Government does not consider what the Sisters do religious enough to merit an exemption. So, under the pressure of a lawsuit and public outrage, the Government created a scheme and called it an “accommodation.” There is no truth in labeling here. The Government is not accommodating the Sisters; it is adding one more layer of bureaucracy and paperwork to a regulation that still forces the Sisters to violate their faith.
Fortunately, the Supreme Court hasn’t been misled by the Government’s bureaucratic game. That is why the first time the Sisters went to the Court for temporary protection, the Court granted it. Unfortunately, because the Government continues to push to remove that protection from the Sisters, we have filed a cert petition to the Supreme Court to consider the Sisters’ case in full.
We should hear back from the Supreme Court this fall.
While we wait for the Supreme Court, several things have happened that have given the Sisters a spiritual boost and have confirmed that many other members of the judiciary understand what is truly at stake and agree with the Sisters.
First, for the spiritual boost: while in DC, the Pope unexpectedly visited the Sisters. (Can you imagine that call?! “The Pope is on his way. He wants to talk to you.”) After the Pope’s visit, the Vatican spokesperson stated that the visit was a “sign of support for” the Sisters in their legal fight. It was very fun to watch the Sisters’ reaction. I am putting the CNN video below so you can see their happy faces. Well worth the 2 minutes!
Second, the judicial boost: the Pope’s visit took place shortly after five federal judges in the Tenth Circuit decried the ruling against the Sisters as “dangerous” and “contrary to all precedent concerning the free exercise of religion.”
And just last week, three more federal judges weighed in to round out the choir of 18 judges that are exposing the inherent flaws of the Government’s scheme. (In order to make sure all those who follow this closely have a very clear understanding of what is going on, we created this infographic with a link to each of the opinions.)
These most recent judges explained that other courts have committed “grave error” in accepting the Government’s arguments, which boil down to little more than “simply disagree[ing] with the [ministries’] view of what Christian theology demands.” The judges ended with the poignant reminder that “[l]iberty of    conscience” was the “foundation” for the “First Amendment’s religion clauses.”
It is a powerful dissent, but this is my favorite part: “Conscience is the essence of a moral person’s identity. Thomas More went to the scaffold rather than sign a little paper for the King.”
As explained above, the Little Sisters’ objections are about far more than a piece of paper. But, as More’s example shows, even if that’s all this case was about, that’s more than enough. The Government shouldn’t force sincere believers to violate their faith, especially when it doesn’t have to do so. Which is one of the reasons why this case is so important: If the Government can gratuitously crush the Little Sisters’ right to follow their faith, none of us are secure in any of our rights.
The fate of the Little Sisters is the fate of all Americans who want to live according to their faith. Thanks for your support for our work on behalf of the Little Sisters.

Kristina Arriaga
Executive Director
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P.S. Last week, our own Luke Goodrich debated Professor Mary Ann Case. He did really well! Here is a link to the debate.
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