The following is a Catholic Action League of Massachusetts press release…
The Catholic Action League of Massachusetts today applauded the decision of the United States Supreme Court in Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania.
In a 7 to 2 ruling issued this morning, the Court decided that neither religious institutions nor secular employers could be forced to subsidize abortifacients, contraceptives and sterilizations as part of their employee group health insurance plans. Following the 2010 passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in 2011, issued regulations mandating contraceptive coverage as part of the preventive services required by the act.
This was challenged in court by the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic religious order, and others. Following the Sisters’ 2016 Supreme Court victory in Zubik v. Burwell, President Donald J. Trump, in 2017, issued an Executive Order directing federal agencies to devise regulations to protect the religious freedom rights of conscientious objectors to the Obama Care mandate. These Trump Administration regulations, finalizing both a religious exemption and a moral exemption to the mandate, were promulgated in November, 2018.
The Little Sisters of the Poor were dragged back into court however, when the State of California and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, joined by the State of New Jersey, and supported by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, sued to overturn the exemption.
Writing for the majority earlier today, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas found that the Trump Administration’s relevant executive departments—HHS, Labor and Treasury—had the statutory authority to craft the religious exemption as well as the contemporaneously issued moral exemption for commercial business owners.
Thomas also stated that the Court, in its decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, “made it abundantly clear that, under RFRA, [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ] the Departments must accept the sincerely held complicity-based objections of religious entities.”
In their concurrence, Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch went further, stating the Religious Freedom Restoration Act required a religious exemption to the contraceptive mandate, which the court described as “administratively imposed”.
The Catholic Action League called the ruling a “a defeat for coercion and a victory for the liberty of conscience, moral sanity and the First Amendment.”
Catholic Action League Executive Director C. J. Doyle made the following comment: “When birth control was legalized in the 1960’s, liberals lectured Catholics about the need not to impose their values upon others. Those on the political left however, apparently had no scruples about forcing Catholic nuns to pay for other peoples’ contraceptives.”
“Birth control remains legal, inexpensive and ubiquitously available in America. This now defunct, punitive mandate was never about guaranteeing access to health care for women. It was always about imposing ideological conformity upon dissenters from progressive orthodoxy.”
“Some would reduce freedom of religion in this country to the freedom to worship. Yet even the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, in the 1994 Desilets case, maintained that ‘Conduct motivated by sincerely held religious convictions will be recognized as the exercise of religion,’ a constitutionally protected right. Thankfully, the U. S. Supreme Court upheld that principle today.”