In its Supreme Court battle over Obamacare’s abortion-pill mandate, the government wants to “determine what is in fact a sin,” contends a religious-rights legal group.
The high court has agreed to hear the case of the Denver-based Little Sisters of the Poor nuns, who refused to comply with the requirement that the insurance policies for their employees cover abortion pills.
The nuns have refused to sign over the responsibility to their insurance company, arguing it also would be a violation of their faith to facilitate someone else committing a sin.
The group’s chief counsel, Richard Thompson, called the mandate “a monumental attack on religious liberty.”
“If this appeal is lost, the government becomes the head of every religious denomination in the country by its assumed authority to determine what is in fact a sin,” he said.
The brief argues that the neither the government nor the lawyers on the Supreme Court bench “can determine whether an act does or does not violate a person’s religious beliefs.”
“Rather, the Supreme Court must accept the non-profits’ assertions that the notification requirement is indeed against their religion.”
To accept otherwise, the brief says, “is to supplant the church and the Bible with the government, allowing the Supreme Court and the government to interpret [tenets] of faith.
“This slippery slope would subject all religious exercise to the whim of the government’s approval.”
The brief points out that it’s already been decided that the fines for noncompliance are a substantial burden, leaving essentially the question of “whether compliance is actually against the petitioners’ religion.”
“This is something that is for petitioners to determine, not the court,” the Thomas More Law Center says.
“The court is not the arbiter of sacred Scripture and cannot determine whether the notification form and letter are attenuated enough from the provision of contraceptives that they do not substantially burden petitioners’ religion,” the brief says. “Delving into this inquiry requires the court to interpret petitioners’ religious beliefs on the morality of the different levels of complicity with sin.
“Therefore, the court can only determine whether petitioners are being compelled to do something that violates their faith – here, filling out the notification form or writing a notification letter to HHS, both of which trigger the dissemination of contraceptives and abortifacients to their employees in connection with their employee health plans.”
The brief point out that a woman’s right to get contraceptives is not unlimited.
“This does not mean they have a right to free contraceptives and abortifacients. Moreover, this right certainly does not mean that a person has the right to obtain contraceptives and abortifacients – either directly or indirectly – from their employer at the expense of pillaging the employer’s religious liberty,” the brief states.
The Little Sisters charge the government is forcing them to violate their faith by giving them a choice between providing contraceptives and abortion pills directly or ordering them to sign over their responsibility to someone else.
“These notification requirements trigger the non-profits’ insurers to provide free contraceptives and abortifacients to the women in the non-profits’ health plans. This notification requirement makes the non profits complicit in the provision of a service that they find sinful, thereby causing them to sin themselves,” the brief explains.
The law center argues there should not even be a case.
“The government already subsidizes contraceptives and abortifacients through its programs and could find ways to expand or increase the efficacy of those existing programs,” the brief says.
“The government could offer grants, go directly to insurers, or engage in countless other options that do not involve the cooperation of petitioners.”
Further, providing “free contraceptives and abortifacients” is not a compelling government interest, the law center argues, quoting the Supreme Court itself.
“The many exemptions already provided for under the regulations necessarily destroy any argument that the HHS mandate serves a compelling interest.”
It was the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that took on the authority of determining what is sin.
Another recent brief challenged: “Perhaps the apex among a host of acts of governmental arrogance in this case was displayed not by HHS, but when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit acted as if it had ecclesiastical powers of absolution, having decreed that by just signing a paper, Little Sisters would not be ‘morally complicit in providing contraceptive coverage.'”
The brief said one would expect that “on the issue of who the God of Heaven and Earth will hold ‘morally complicit,’ it would be the Little Sisters which would have the greater expertise than a federal judge.”