Tom Purcell, 5/23/2016 [Archive]

The Little Sisters of the Poor & the Fight for Freedom

By Tom Purcell

God bless the Little Sisters of the Poor. They just put our overzealous federal government back in its constitutional place.

The Little Sisters of the Poor is an international congregation of Roman Catholic nuns who have devoted their lives to caring for the elderly poor. Since the order's 1839 founding in France, its mission has been to give dignity and love to the frail and weak in the very last stage of their lives.

When ObamaCare became the law of the land, it demanded that the sisters purchase insurance policies for the order's employees that cover the cost of contraception, abortive drugs and sterilization. But the nuns could never do so because their vow is to advance the dignity of life for every person, including the unborn.

The Little Sisters sought a religious exemption from the rules, but, according to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a legal group that defended the sisters in court, the government said the nuns were not religious enough to be exempt. The government insisted that the ObamaCare exemption applied only to churches and church-controlled ministries.

The government threatened massive fines against the 27 retirement homes that the sisters operate in the United States — at a cost of $100 per employee per day or $70 million in fines per year. This amount represents one-third of the Little Sisters' operating budget and would have severely hampered the sisters ability to care for the elderly poor.

So, in 2013, the good sisters sued the government.

They argued that their constitutional right to freely practice their faith was being obstructed by our ever-growing government. The federal district court in Denver, Colo., ruled against them.

Thankfully, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued an injunction siding with the sisters. Her injunction temporarily stopped the fines as the case worked its way through the legal process.

The sisters appealed the district court ruling. They lost again in 2015 when the 10th Circuit Court ruled against them and sided with ObamaCare.

The Little Sisters filed a petition to the Supreme Court. Finally, last week, the Supreme Court gave the sisters a huge win.

According to the Becket Fund, "The Supreme Court unanimously overturned the lower court rulings against the Little Sisters, ordered the government not to fine the Little Sisters, and said the lower courts should provide the government an opportunity 'to arrive at an approach going forward that accommodates the petitioner's religious beliefs.'"

What is most puzzling about the whole situation, however, is that none of this was necessary.

The sisters "never sought to prevent the government from providing these (contraception) services, but have simply asked that the government pick a way that doesn't force them to deliver services — like the week-after pill — that violate their faith."

President Obama himself acknowledged that "the government can continue to provide these services without the Little Sisters and their health plan," according to the Becket Fund.

So why did our government attack the wonderful sisters who have dedicated their lives to caring for the elderly poor?

It beats me, but it is a textbook case of why I and others worry about the erosion of our country's most basic freedoms as our overzealous government extends its tentacles more deeply into every aspect of our everyday lives.

In our current state, it takes the incredible fortitude of a group of selfless nuns to protect and restore our freedoms.

They fought the good fight against a mighty foe so that they may continue to practice their faith freely in what is supposed to be the freest nation on Earth.

God bless the Little Sisters of the Poor.

——-

© 2016 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of "Misadventures of a 1970's Childhood" and "Sean McClanahan Mysteries," available at Amazon.com, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Sales@cagle.com or call (805) 969-2829. Send comments to Tom at Tom@TomPurcell.com.



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