On Monday the US government went back into court in what is its eighth attempt to force religious orders to provide contraceptive services to its members. The primary target is a Little Sisters of the Poor, a women’s religious order, but the effort has a direct impact on some 400 Catholic religious orders.
The Trust’s case has largely been reported by both Catholic and secular media as focused on the Little Sisters of the Poor, one of the Trust’s clients and a lead plaintiff in the lawsuit. But that ignores the case’s much larger impact on hundreds of Catholic organizations. An adverse ruling could do extensive damage to the Church’s most faithful Catholic apostolates that have sought a shelter from state and federal violations of religious freedom.
The Trust provides health benefits to Catholic Church-related organizations that seek to uphold their Catholic beliefs, with no coverage for abortion-causing drugs, sterilization and contraception—as the HHS mandate would require.
The latest revision of the rule, on Aug. 22, would allow religious nonprofits such as the Little Sisters of the Poor to write a letter to HHS informing the government of their objection on religious grounds.
The government then would direct the employer’s insurance company or third-party administrator to cover the objectionable drugs, devices or services.
As the Daily Signal shows this new change really does nothing to address the problem:
As you can see, the Little Sisters still pay for insurance. That same insurance policy provides the objectionable services. Someone is obviously paying for that service… more likely than not the owner of the insurance policy. All that has changed is that a couple of letters have changed hands. This shows a either a cynical lack of seriousness on the part of the administration or a profound misunderstanding of the underlying religious and conscience issue.
Oral arguments are scheduled for September 29 and the case is probably bound for the Supreme Court regardless of how the Tenth Circuit rules.