Bishops, Little Sisters, and contraception: an HHS mandate update
It is hardly surprising, but it is significant nonetheless.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in support of the non-government parties in the cases scheduled to go before the court on March 25, Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius.
In the amicus brief, the USCCB claims that the so-called contraception mandate "violates" an employer's right to religious exercise.
Bishop William Lori of Baltimore writes that “Catholics believe that the right to religious freedom proceeds from the inherent dignity of each and every human person, and that includes people who run businesses. They should not be specially excluded from the freedom to practice their faith in daily life.”
The brief comes about a month after the Little Sisters of the Poor in Colorado were granted a preliminary injunction by the Supreme Court because, though they are eligible for a religious exemption, they are claiming that signing the form that declares their eligibility for the exemption makes them complicit in providing contraception, which is contrary to their religious beliefs. The Supreme Court has since granted the Little Sisters temporary relief from their claim, sending the decision back to the appeals court for a final decision.
Meanwhile, the University of Notre Dame was denied a preliminary injunction by U.S. District Judge Philip P. Simon, who wrote that "Notre Dame wants to eat its cake, and have it still, at the expense of Congress, administrative agencies, and the employees who will be affected. Notre Dame is free to opt out of providing the coverage itself, but it can’t stop anyone else from providing it."
As I said, it is not surprising, but it is interesting to see just how much the bishops are choosing to invest in the Hobby Lobby case.
It is as yet unclear what impact, if any, the Hobby Lobby decision will have on cases like the Little Sisters and Notre Dame, as Hobby Lobby is a secular, for-profit organization. What is clear, however, is that this is an issue to watch, if only to see just how the bishops are choosing to spend their political capital.